A terrible flu season, the looming specter of a coronavirus outbreak, and the daily realities of localized infections all highlight the need for rigorous infection control. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues annual infection control guidelines to reduce the risk of spreading potentially dangerous or even lethal illnesses. Many of these guidelines are common sense, and echo the things you learned in childhood about washing your hands and covering your cough. A friendly reminder of these guidelines may encourage you and your team to redouble your infection prevention strategies, especially because doing so requires little additional effort.
Here are the most important guidelines to follow:
Avoid Spreading Infections
You can contain the spread of infections with a few simple strategies:
- Never go to work sick. Implement a company-wide policy that discourages people from working while sick, and which includes paid sick leave.
- Always cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow, and establish company regulations that encourage others to do the same.
- Wear protective gear, including gloves and masks, to reduce the spread of bacteria to and from patients.
Practice Obsessive Cleanliness
Handwashing remains the single most important strategy for reducing the spread of infection. There is no need to use antibacterial hand soap or hand sanitizers. Soap and warm water work very well. Wash the hands and fingernails for at least 30 seconds, making sure to wash the wrists and arms if they are also exposed. Wash your hands:
- After coughing or sneezing
- After using the bathroom
- Before eating or preparing food
- Before and after touching a patient
- Before and after cleaning or using equipment that touches patients
- Immediately after coming into contact with potentially hazardous fluids
- After shaking someone’s hand or hugging a colleague
- After touching animals or animal waste
Minimize Entry Points for Infection
Open wounds create points of high vulnerability, especially for people with weak immune systems or chronic illnesses. Keep these wounds covered and urge patients to avoid touching them. When suctioning a patient, practice gentle techniques and choose the right suction equipment to reduce the risk of suctioning-related trauma and injury.
No matter how much you wash your hands or how diligently you care for your patients, if your equipment is not secure, you may expose patients to infections without even realizing it. Keep all equipment securely locked and stored in an area where it is unlikely to be exposed to contaminants. Never store dirty equipment, because microbes can easily transfer to other equipment. Instead, clean and dry equipment before putting it away, and keep all equipment in secure bags or boxes.
Sterilization, Disinfection, and Reuse
Never reuse single-use equipment. Instead, ensure that you have a sufficient supply of each item you need by taking stock at the beginning of each shift. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for sterilizing and reusing equipment. Don’t just perform a cursory disinfection. Ensure that each piece of equipment is fully disinfected, and that you only disinfect the equipment when your hands are clean and gloved. Change gloves before moving on to the next piece of equipment to minimize infection transmission.
The right suction machine makes your job more manageable, and may even reduce the risk of infection by delivering reliable, safe suction that is less likely to cause airway trauma. Portable suction empowers you to treat patients wherever they are, rather than delaying treatment and undertaking the risk of transporting them. It also helps hospitals meet their obligations to treat patients under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). For help choosing the ideal suction machine for your agency, download our free guide, The Ultimate Guide to Purchasing a Portable Emergency Suction Device.