When working in the medical field, especially in a post-pandemic world, taking the necessary steps to prevent spreading infections to loved ones in your home is essential. With chronic exposure to sick patients, the likelihood of bringing home an unwanted virus is high. There are a variety of ways providers can utilize best practices to reduce the risk of exposure.
Protection starts at work
To address the issue of bringing home unwanted infections, you must start by protecting yourself at work. This consists of taking the time to do extra handwashing or utilizing hand sanitizer when you’re in a quick pinch and utilizing the personal protective equipment (PPE) provided to you by your facility. These materials consist of a gown, gloves and face mask — all of which should always be worn when performing airway management and using a suctioning device, as suctioning a patient can be an easy way to spread saliva. After suctioning, all the disposable items used should be properly thrown away, and all the devices should be sanitized and wiped down thoroughly.
According to the American Medical Association, implementing techniques to reduce unnecessary patient contact is a newer practice being done by many institutions after the pandemic. Telemedicine visits are a great way to limit unnecessary patient contact and prevent the spread of infections, and they reduce the chance of bringing an infection home from work.
Personal items carry germs
Sometimes, remembering to disinfect your personal items can fly under the radar. Your cell phone and other items that you frequently touch with your hands and face should be wiped down before entering your home. Any items with a hard surface, such as computers or pens touched regularly, should be sanitized as well.
The clothes that you wear to and from work also carry massive amounts of bacteria on them. A tip to avoid exposing your loved ones to infections from your clothes is to change out of them before you enter the home. You should have a designated bag for the contaminated items, as putting the dirty clothes in a hamper with your other clothes at home would defeat the purpose of changing out of them. The same concept applies to the shoes you wear to work — they should be left in your garage or a locker at work to ensure germs aren’t being tracked through your home.
Once you have the dirty clothes separated, the clothes should only be washed and dried by themselves on the hottest setting.
Monitoring your personal health
As a medical professional, you know the signs and symptoms of infections better than the average person. Monitoring your own personal health is key to identifying a virus before it spreads to your loved ones at home. If you do recognize symptoms, taking the necessary steps to self-quarantine is essential. To prepare ahead of time, talk with the people in your household to designate a living space, bathroom and routine plan that you can implement in case you need to quarantine.
The American Medical Association recognizes that it can be easy to want to isolate yourself to protect your family from the potential illnesses you may bring home, but providers should also understand that spending quality time with loved ones, when safe, is essential to their mental and physical health.
We’re in this together
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare providers have had to navigate the stress of bringing home illnesses to their families. By implementing a consistent routine and healthy best practices, providers can reduce the spread of germs and infection, giving themselves and their families better peace of mind.