The Basics of Infection Control, Part II
- In our last post, we reviewed some of the most basic yet most crucial pieces of an infection control plan, including:
- Hand hygiene
- Coughing etiquette
- Patient placement
These behaviors are all critical in maintaining a safe healthcare environment and require the participation of facilities staff, clinical staff, patients and visitors. Of course, these are only the tip of the iceberg.
In this post, we will address infection control processes that require specific healthcare equipment.
For a more complete look at infection control, be sure to read A Practical Guide to Infection Control.
Patient Room Disinfection
In any healthcare facility, rooms will be used by multiple patients over the course of a month, a week, or even a day depending on the department. It is essential that rooms are properly disinfected in order to prevent transmission of disease between sick patients.
Cleaning staff should use EPA-approved hospital-grade disinfectant to clean room surfaces, such as:
- Bed frame
- TV remote
- Nurse call button
Textiles such as sheets and room dividers should be laundered according to facility standards.
In required cases, cleaning personnel should also wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, and gowns.
Patient Care Equipment
In addition to cleaning the room’s surfaces, specific patient care equipment must also be cleaned and disinfected.
The right way to disinfect patient care equipment depends on the type of equipment. The standard for most healthcare facilities is based on the idea of critical, semicritical, and noncritical items. Critical items include all surgical instruments that enter sterile tissue or the vascular system. Semicritical items are those that come into contact with mucous membranes or nonintact skin and noncritical items can be either patient care equipment or environmental surfaces that come into contact with intact skin.
Critical items should be purchased sterile and sterilized with steam when necessary. Other items should be disinfected with the chemicals that have been identified to work best with that particular item, paying attention to the longevity of the material where necessary. UV disinfection can be appropriate in some cases.
Personal Worker Protection
As mentioned above, personal protective equipment is another essential part of infection control. Facilities staff and clinical staff should have easy access to the PPE they need to protect themselves as well as patients from the spread of infection.
Personal Protective Equipment
According to the CDC, the most common types of PPE are:
- Gowns or aprons
- Masks or respirators
- Face shields
To determine the right type of PPE for any situation, workers should consider the exposure they anticipate to infectious materials and the form that will take, such as splash, spray, or touch.
Certain infectious diseases, such as HIV and Ebola have distinct recommended precautions when it comes to PPE, as well as other infection control procedures. Disease-specific recommendations are available in the CDC Guidelines Directory.
The air in patient rooms is a bit more difficult to disinfect than, say, a bedside table. However, ventilation is a key part of infection control, particularly in rooms or wings that hour immunocompromised patients.
General guidelines are that spaces with immunocompromised patients have 15 air changes per hour (ACH) or more. If there are not immunocompromised patients then many facilities accept 12 ACH. Operating and delivery rooms usually have recirculating air systems that provide 25 ACH.
It is critical that you have a fan unit that can pull the necessary air-flow to meet those guidelines in healthcare facilities.
Infection control is an ongoing process. Healthcare facility staff must be expected to keep up-to-date on the latest infection control technologies as well as having ongoing training on accepted standards.
There is no single blog post that can ensure a facility will maintain infection control standards, but by continuing to stay educated on the subject and staying alert to the risks posed in a healthcare environment, there is a better chance of facilities worldwide lowering the instance of healthcare-acquired infection.