Hospital-acquired infections sicken 2 million patients every year in the United States and claim some 90,000 lives, while costing the nation’s health care system $6.65 billion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Babin Chandran, BSN, RN, chair of the Nursing Quality and Safety Council at Christiana Care, talks about some of the ways hospital-acquired infections can be prevented.
Q: What is the most important thing to do to prevent hospital-acquired infections?
A: Appropriate hand hygiene. Health care workers can commit to both frequent hand washing and educating their patients on ways to prevent hospital-acquired infections. Here’s an example: C.diff (Clostridium difficile) is a spore-forming bacteria that can be lethal. C.diff spores can live indefinitely on hospital surfaces and equipment, such as blood-pressure cuffs, stretchers, curtains, doorknobs and computer keyboards. Patients who are on prolonged use of antibiotics are especially vulnerable.
Patients must actually ingest the C.diff germ to get the infection. Ensuring that patients follow appropriate hand hygiene during their hospital stay, especially before meals, can help prevent from C.diff. hospital-acquired infections.
Q: What are some of the ways health care providers can work together to prevent hospital-acquired infections?
A: When changing dressings, nurses can work with a partner to ensure they maintain sterile technique and prevent wound infections. Everyone can help protect patients and health care workers from acquiring hospital-acquired infections by speaking up with a gentle reminder when someone is observed not following universal precautions. Nurses can work with doctors by telling them as soon as possible whenever a patient’s culture report is negative so that antibiotics can be discontinued. We all have a role to play in infection prevention.
Q: The 5 East/West stepdown unit staff at Wilmington Hospital had some great ideas to raise awareness about hospital-acquired infections. Can you tell us about that?
A: The staff embraced a concept that “infection prevention is everyone’s business” as a team. They created posters and held interactive educational sessions on preventing hospital-acquired infections. Their goal was to engage and empower frontline staff by enhancing awareness about hospital-acquired infections prevention strategies, specifically C.diff, with an aim to reach zero hospital-acquired infections in 5EW. I want to congratulate some key players in that initiative, including: Arlene Peirce, BSN, RN, PCCN; Michael Knorr, BSN, RN, PCCN; Jaclyn McGinness, Pharm.D; Megan Merrill, BSN, RN; Kim Berl, RN; Andrea Rogers, MSN, RN, CIC; Sherry Zurlo, BSN, RN, PCCN; Cindy Weiner, RN; Jessica Powers, PCT; Crystal Hogate, BSN, RN, PCCN; and Mike Dallas, SNE.