Hospitals heal—that’s what they’re known for. This is why, for many, the possibility of contracting a hospital acquired infection (HAI) is an unfathomable event. That being said, despite the conceptions that people might have about their safety within hospital walls, it isn’t uncommon. So, what can be done to maintain the quality and reputations of hospitals, as well as the health of our patients? A simple first step is to establish a proper set of policies that can be followed to prevent the spread of infection. Here are 10 must-have infection control policies every hospital should have:
1. Hand Hygiene
This one seems like a no-brainer, we all know that good hand hygiene can reduce the risk of flu, food poisoning, and other HAIs. But it’s worth mentioning again as it can’t be stressed enough that this is perhaps one of the most important policies to have in place for your healthcare organization.
- If using soap: wash for 40-60 seconds, rub all areas with soap and use single use towel to rub dry. Don’t forget to use a towel to turn off the faucet and if you have to, open the door with it.
- If using alcohol rub: use enough product to cover hands, rub until dry.
To be more thorough, it may be helpful to include notes as to specify the instances and how often hands should be washed.
2. Wear Gloves
Similar to hand hygiene, wearing gloves and properly disposing of them plays an important part in reducing the spread of HAIs. Be sure to mention the following in your policy:
- Wear gloves when handling any body related materials, including blood, secretions, excretions, membranes, body fluids, etc.
- Change gloves between tasks
- Properly discard gloves after completion of task and perform proper hand hygiene protocol
3. Wear a Gown
It’s important to protect your skin and avoid soiling your clothing, as it is likely that clothing cannot be discarded if it should happen, and that’s where gowns come in. Wearing a gown is an easy way to not only ensure that your clothing lives to see another day away from the cleaners but as they can easily be removed and will help avoid the spread of infectious diseases.
- Wear gowns in any instances where splashes or spraying of secretions, excretions, blood or bodily fluids might be present.
- Remove gowns as soon as possible and perform hand hygiene.
4. Protect your Face
Our faces are portals for infectious diseases to make their way into our bodies. This is why it is important to protect our eyes, nose, and mouth against splashes or sprays of blood, fluids, secretions, etc.
5. Prevention of needlestick injuries
Just like hand hygiene policies are a no-brainer, this one may seem like one too. However, sometimes it’s good to just be reminded. Being around surgical instruments and needles can be pretty dangerous as well. Having a set of policies in place outlining how to handle instruments or dispose of needles may be the refresher some people need to stay safe.
6. Respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette
Flu season isn’t the only time we should be reminding staff and patients about this policy. Having a set of instructions in place may be the gentle nudge in the right direction people need to keep others healthy. Beyond covering up your nose and mouth with tissues or a mask when coughing and sneezing and performing proper hand hygiene frequently, hospitals should:
- Place patients with respiratory ailments away from common areas
- Post signs alerting people entering these areas to take extra care and remind them to perform hand hygiene when leaving
- Post signs instructing those with ailments of proper hygiene etiquette
- Make preventative tools available for staff and patients to take advantage of
7. Regular cleaning
Ensure policies are in a place where common areas and areas with infectious patients are regularly cleaned and frequently touched surfaces are disinfected once it is recognized that they have been infected.
They may seem harmless, but the truth is they could be carrying the pathogens that we have been trying so hard to avoid. Creating a policy where staff must wear gloves, gowns, and facial protection when handling linens, as well as disposing of the protective clothing immediately after use can go a long way in protecting staff from contracting an HAI.
9. Waste Disposal
Having a waste management policy in place is also a crucial procedure to ensure staff are aware of. Most importantly, your policy should include how to properly dispose of waste that has been contaminated with blood, human tissues, and bodily fluids safely.
10. Patient Care Equipment
Often times the equipment used to care for patients can become soiled. Having a policy in place where staff must clean and disinfect this equipment regularly and upon recognizing that the equipment has been soiled is another small step in the right direction of infection control and prevention.
While it’s important that the right policies and procedures be implemented, it is equally important that policies are regularly promoted to maintain momentum. What’s more, having an automated process that enables staff to access policies at the point of care quickly and easily can empower staff to take charge of adhering to hospital policies. Often times, teaming up with your Quality and Risk Department(s) to promote a culture of safety is a key step that shouldn’t be overlooked, as creating a safe hospital is equally important to them as it is to you.
For more tips and tricks on creating policies and procedures read our blog on How to Write Effective Healthcare Policies and Procedures!