Ways medical staff can reduce risk of hospital-acquired infections

Doctors and nurses can reduce the spread of infection by washing their hands, cleaning the environment and wearing safety gear.

Health care associated infections are a concern across New Mexico and the rest of the country. Patients go into hospitals and clinics to get treated for a minor injury or illness, and end up catching something more serious while in the facility. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, common hospital-acquired infections include central line-associated blood stream, surgical site, catheter-associated urinary tract and laboratory identified hospital onset bloodstream infections. These various infection types had a standardized infection ratio of 0.55, 1.48, 1.22 and 0.42 respectively in the state over the course of a single year.

Hand hygiene

Proper hand washing procedures can help reduce the spread of infection for patients. When health care professionals clean a patient's wound or insert a chest tube, the bacteria on their hands can easily be transferred to the patient. Proper hand hygiene requires doctors and nurses to wash their hands at various times, including the following:

  • After touching the patient
  • Before performing aseptic procedures
  • After being exposed to body fluids, such as blood or urine
  • Before touching a patient

When medical staff use warm, soapy water and hand sanitizer to wash their hands before and after interacting with patients, they can help reduce the spread of disease and infection in the hospital.

Environmental cleanliness

The environment a patient is in may affect the spread of infection. The hospital staff can work together to keep work areas clean. For example, the personnel should be sure to clean beds, bedrails and sheets between each patient. Staff should inspect the environmental cleanliness frequently to ensure walls and floors remain safe. As a rule of thumb, walls should be wiped down twice a week and floors should be swept and mopped two to three times a day.

Preventative gear

Nurses and doctors should wear the proper gear to help prevent the spread of infection. For example, a medical professional wearing a long-sleeved blouse may pose a higher risk for spreading infection than a coworker wearing scrubs. This is because the long sleeves can touch patients and surrounding surfaces, which can in turn lead to the spread of germs.

The safety clothes required may depend on the medical situation at hand. Typically, sterile gloves should be worn when performing procedures like the Foley catheter insertion. Doctors need to change their gloves between tasks to reduce the risk of infection. Other preventative gear that can be worn includes gowns, eye protection, head coverings, masks and shoe coverings.

When New Mexico patients go into a hospital for treatment, they should not have to worry about getting a potentially fatal infection. Anyone who has gotten an infection because of a hospital stay should work with an attorney who is familiar with this type of medical malpractice case.