Infection Control – Back to Basics!
Infection prevention and control is more than the sum of a task list, appropriate equipment, and written policies and procedures. They are all important elements and the foundation of a strong infection control program and a culture of safety for every healthcare environment. From leader to volunteers, everyone must be committed to improved patient outcomes and a safe environment for employees.
Basic Principle #1 – Clearly Defined Administrative Controls
Policies and procedures must be developed to support the services which are delivered. Having formal policies and procedures will set the standard of care and serve as an educational tool for all existing and new employees. Areas to cover may include: hand hygiene, employee immunizations, appropriate use of PPE, surface disinfection, sterilization, and last but not least post-exposure management. These documents must be based on national standards, some of which are published by the Centers of Disease Control.
Practices should be aware of the immune status of all clinical employees to certain diseases. The only vaccine required by law for employees at risk of exposure to blood and/or body fluids is the hepatitis B vaccination. However, it is prudent to establish the immune status for employees involved in clinical care for illnesses such as chicken pox, measles, and mumps. The CDC recommendations on vaccinations for healthcare workers can be reviewed at http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p2017.pdf.
Appropriate amounts of supplies must be available at all times. These include hand-hygiene products, PPE, surface disinfection products, safety needles/devices, and sterilization supplies (wraps, pouches, chemical indicators, spore test).
Each practice should assign an individual to monitor infection control compliance, sometimes referred to as the Infection Control Coordinator. The ideal candidate would have training in infection control principles and work consistently in the practice location.
Basic Principle #2 – Education and Training
All staff members should be reminded frequently of the need for stellar infection control procedures. Cover the following topics: hand-hygiene, respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette and the required bloodborne pathogen training. This can be handled through monthly staff meetings, informational posters placed in prominent areas as reminders, and on an annual basis with other compliance training.
Provide task specific training for infection control to employees and contract labor, in addition to general training. Focus on the following areas: the correct process for cleaning and disinfecting clinical contact surfaces, cleaning and packaging instrumentation for sterilization and monitoring the sterilization process.
Evaluate how well trained your clinical employees are. For example, consider it they know these infection control basics: the contact time for the EPA approved hospital level disinfectant used; location of personal protective equipment; and emergency exit routes. TMC clients can locate both temporary and worker orientation checklists in the Client Portal.
Policies, procedures and training are critical building blocks in creating a safe workplace. It is important to train all workers on practice expectations for safety to ensure a complete understanding of safety measures which are a part of the daily workflow.
Next month we will focus on personal protective equipment, instrument processing and single use medicines/devices and how they contribute to safety for workers and patients.