Hospital infections are a serious problem in health care today, and the importance of infection control has become evident after the onset of COVID-19. The policies and procedures of a healthcare facility for infection control reflect the quality of services they offer.
Hospital infections impact the quality of treatment and life for both inpatients and outpatients. And since more infections are transmitted to patients when hospitalized, nurses have a pivotal role in controlling and preventing such infections.
This article discusses how a patient can contract hospital infection, the importance of nursing education in equipping them with adequate knowledge, and their role in preventing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). Let’s begin
How can patients contract Healthcare-Associated Infections?
Healthcare-associated infections are also called nosocomial infections. Patients receive these infections after they are hospitalized. In other words, the patients are not infected when hospitalized but contract the virus during their time at the hospital.
Most healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) occur due to negligence during diagnostics and therapeutic procedures. Some of these illnesses can spread to healthcare personnel and patient families if not treated promptly.
Importance of nursing education in infection control
The nurses work on the front line when epidemics break out, or hospitals overflow with people who need to be treated. As more viruses mutate and new ones are discovered, nurses must be trained and educated with safety guidelines, diagnosis, and treatment methods.
Registered nurses (RNs) have basic medication administration and patient care training. Advanced education like BSN, ADN, and MSN include areas of specialization in infection prevention and control.
If you’re a registered nurse, you can register for affordable RN to BSN online programs that take only nine months to complete. This course will help you learn about infection hazards, safety measures, and infection prevention and control mechanisms. It provides essential training and incorporates advanced education programs to equip you with the latest knowledge of handling hazardous infections in a healthcare facility.
The Role of Nurses in Preventing Healthcare-Associated Infections
By developing and implementing strict infection control policies and procedures, nursing staff in hospitals can minimize or prevent the spread of these infections and safeguard healthcare staff and visitors from infection hazards.
- Develop and Implement Infection Control Policies and Procedures
Nurses are among the healthcare staff working closely with patients to provide quality care. Infection control nurses (ICNs) have in-depth knowledge of infectious agents like bacteria and viruses in healthcare facilities. These nurses have a vital role in developing and implementing organization-wide infection control policies and procedures.
Nurses can do this by analyzing infection data and developing action plans once an infection outbreak is confirmed through blood work and reports. Nurses can help create treatment plans for patients and staff infected with a certain disease and educate health professionals on preventive measures, safety precautions, symptoms, and treatment.
Nurses need to isolate and treat infected patients to prevent infection. They also work closely with The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure all the safety measures in infection control procedures are implemented in their true spirit.
- Follow Infection Control Guidelines and Practices
Implementing infection control policies, guidelines, and practices depends heavily on the nursing staff. Nurses follow the standard precautions for infection control and prevention, which require them to assume all patients could be infected with the organism. The implementation of standard precautions involves recognizing risk and implementing preventive steps to contain the spread of infection. The purpose of these preventive measures is to protect patients and healthcare staff from exposure and direct contact with microorganisms.
- Hand Hygiene: Nurses must enforce hand hygiene using soap and water or alcohol-based hand rubs. A nurse or other healthcare professionals should only touch patients if their hands are sanitized or properly cleansed.
- Clean and Disinfect Patient Care Areas: The environment inside a healthcare facility is a key factor in facilitating the spread of healthcare-associated infections. Nurses in administrative and leadership roles can analyze possible sources of contamination and reinforce safety precautions, including frequent cleaning and disinfection of patient care areas. Nurses can keep records of these areas and ensure no procedure delays.
- Injection and Medication Safety: Unsafe injection and medication practices are major causes of HAIs spread within healthcare facilities. This is where nurses play a key role in ensuring proper handling and safe disposal of infectious materials, including injections, drips, body fluids, excretions, diagnostics samples, cultures, needles, razors, etc. Nurses must use personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent exposure to contagious diseases and remove it to prevent self-contamination.
- Educate Patients and Families
Nurses act as a spokesperson for both healthcare facilities and patients. To prevent the spread of healthcare-associated infections, nurses should educate patients, families, caregivers, and coworkers about the required safety guidelines, procedures, and policies. They should empower patients for self-care and educate family members on isolating and interacting with the infectious person at home.
- Work with Members of the Healthcare Team
Nurses provide essential feedback and on-ground information to decision-makers and top management. They can play a vital role in preventing healthcare-associated infections by teaming up with other members of the healthcare facility and helping them identify and analyze possible sources of infection. Once the sources are identified, nurses can advise precautionary methods and help healthcare staff implement safety procedures throughout the healthcare facility.
- Performance Monitoring and Feedback
Patient performance monitoring and evaluation are critical in maximizing a healthcare facility’s output, particularly during an infection outbreak. The major purpose of performance evaluation is to facilitate a patient’s progress and identify areas of strengths and weaknesses. Nurses can help boost performance monitoring at all levels during infection outbreaks by implementing monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. Nurses can improve monitoring by using checklists, taking collaborative rounds, observing patients & hospital hygiene, and providing prompt feedback to other team members. Feedback from nurses will facilitate healthcare facilities in improving patient care and reviewing prevention techniques.
Healthcare-associated infections pose a serious threat to patient and staff health safety and the overall reputation of any healthcare facility. Since nurses work closely with patients, they play a pivotal role in implementing safety precautions and infection prevention and control procedures. They can educate patients, families, and healthcare staff on safety precautions and avoid self-contamination when interacting with an infected patient. With the safety measures mentioned above, nurses in healthcare facilities can effectively contain the spread of infectious diseases and prevent mass contamination.
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