08 Dec Why is Infection Control important?
Regardless of the setting (dental, ambulatory medical practice, ambulatory surgery, hospital, or long-term care) healthcare personnel go to work every day with the intention of taking excellent care of patients. No one anticipates giving a patient more than what they came for – like a healthcare-associated infection. According to the most recent information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were an estimated 722,000 healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) in hospitals in 2011 and about 75,000 patients with HAI’s died during their hospitalization. We think of them as our patients, but remember the human cost – our ‘patients’ are someone’s mother, father, spouse, child, or very close friend. Our ‘patients’ play a key role in their community, their employer’s organization, their family and their household. What would happen to your loved ones if you couldn’t work or participate in any household activities for 10 days, 4 weeks or even longer because you had an HAI? How would your role in the community or employment be affected by an absence for that length of time? What kind of strain would it place on your family if your child acquired an HAI and had to stay in the hospital for an extra month or longer?
Although the above statements may seem to only pertain to hospitals, there have been many outbreaks reported to the CDC from outpatient facilities. Dental practices have transmitted infections to unsuspecting patients. The most recent were outbreaks of Mycobacterium abscessus among children in California in late 2016 and in Georgia in 2015. Most of the children that acquired this infection required hospitalization and some required surgery that caused permanent loss of teeth or jaw bone loss in an attempt to stop the infection. These infections were attributed to poor maintenance or monitoring of dental unit waterlines.
But, the story doesn’t stop there. A national study conducted by Dwyer et al found that about 12% of nursing home residents, 11.5% of home health care patients, and approximately 10% of patients discharged from hospice had an infection.
And, it gets worse. From 2008-2016, the CDC reported 60 separate outbreaks of Hepatitis B and C in such diverse settings as long-term care facilities, hemodialysis centers, pain management center, outpatient oncology clinic, a free dental clinic in a school gymnasium, and a hospital surgery service. Fifty-seven of these outbreaks were caused by poor infection control practices by healthcare personnel (staff and/or providers). The remaining three were due to drug diversion.
So, why is infection control important? Why should you care about infection control? The short answer is healthcare associated infections can cause permanent harm or kill people – your patients.
This is what you can do to prevent your patients from becoming another unfortunate statistic:
- Clean your hands before and after patient contact, before putting on sterile gloves, after removing gloves for any reason, and before performing an invasive procedure (e.g. starting an IV). Of course, don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom!
- Follow respiratory etiquette (e.g. cough or sneeze into your sleeve and wash hands afterwards)
- Have masks, facial tissues, and hand sanitizer available for patients or visitors with upper respiratory symptoms and have a touchless trash can close by for tissue disposal.
- Follow manufacturer’s instructions to clean any equipment used on a patient (blood glucose monitors, thermometers, blood pressure cuffs, etc.) after every use.
- Follow manufacturer’s instructions to sterilize or high-level disinfect instruments such as cystoscopes, surgical instruments, or laryngoscopes.
- Inpatient settings should thoroughly clean environmental surfaces (bedside table, handrails, floors, bathrooms, etc.) regularly.
- Outpatient settings should clean environmental surfaces (exam room counter tops, exam tables, etc.) after each patient.
- ALL settings: regularly disinfect computer keyboard and mouse, cell phones, other electronic devices.
- Follow disinfectant manufacturer’s instructions when using disinfectant wipes or liquids on surfaces or equipment. Be sure to allow enough time for the surface or equipment to remain wet so the disinfectant can kill those harmful bugs! Check the label for this information.
- Don’t go to work if you are sick. Keep your germs to yourself!
Help to keep your patients safe by following the above recommendations, which are available in CDC guidelines. Your patient’s health, literally, is in your hands!