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Infection Control for Facility Managers & Staff, Part I

You know that infection control is important.

It keeps patients, visitors, and staff safe and can also improve the financial performance of your healthcare facility.

Developing or optimizing an infection control protocol can be quite daunting because it may include everything from where to put a new sink to what facilities staff needs to do when washing sheets -- not to mention the clinical aspects.

This post will not cover all of that.

Instead, we will start small with the most basic aspects of infection control in a healthcare setting that require no additional equipment and can make a huge difference.

For a more complete post, be sure to read A Practical Guide to Infection Control.


What is Infection Control?

According to the CDC, infection control “prevents or stops the spread of infections in healthcare settings.” A healthcare provider’s infection control practices can range from the way in which patient rooms are cleaned to the frequency of hand washing by personnel at every level. It should come as no surprise that proper infection control is the most effective way to stem the spread and impact of hospital-acquired infections, no matter what the sources of infection may be.


The Most Important Aspect of Infection Control

Every piece of an infection control protocol must work together to maximize their effects. However, time and again, studies have shown that the most important aspect of infection control in a healthcare setting involves no new technology, groundbreaking research or complex methodologies.

It’s hand hygiene.

One recent analysis indicated that “Proper hand hygiene is the single most important, simplest, and least expensive means of reducing the prevalence of HAIs and the spread of antimicrobial resistance”

No matter how detailed and advanced an infection control program is, if clinicians, facilities workers, and visitors are not cleaning their hands as required, it will not be effective.

The best way to ensure that all personnel are regularly cleaning their hands is through the correct placement of sinks with soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizer stations. In fact, the CDC indicates that alcohol-based hand sanitizer is the preferred way to clean hands that are not visibly dirty.

The CDC provides guidelines for hand hygiene that should be followed by all healthcare facilities.


Respiratory Hygiene

Nearly everyone grew up learning to cover their mouth when they coughed or sneezed. But this simple directive from your mother is actually and incredibly important part of infection control. Respiratory hygiene and coughing etiquette can help to stem the spread of infections in healthcare environments.

Clear signage should be posted to remind staff and visitors to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, then dispose of that tissue immediately. After coughing or sneezing, hand washing or use of an alcohol-based hand rub is essential.

As a facility, it is important to provide not just signage but also tissues, waste baskets, and of course hand hygiene stations to improve respiratory hygiene and prevent the spread of diseases.


Patient Placement

When a patient is admitted to the hospital, it is essential that they be placed in a room such that their placement minimizes the spread of infection. Guidelines for patient placement have infectious patients in single rooms, where possible, and placed with other patients who have similar diagnoses when a single room is not possible. In some cases, patient isolation is required.

Any healthcare facility worker knows that this has just been the very tip of the infection control iceberg. However, these types of simple actions can make a huge difference in infection control outcomes for your facility.

Next week, our post will cover the basics of infection control that require specific equipment.

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