Germs are all around us, whether we like to address it or not. It’s essential to become familiar with how viruses and bacteria spread, so employees, patients, and visitors in hospitals can take proper preventative measures to reduce further transmission. Identifying potential sources and susceptible individuals is the first step to protecting those around you.
Germs are found in many places in hospitals meaning there are sources all around us. A source is an infectious agent or germ such as a virus or bacteria. These infectious agents can live in various environments, such as sinks, surfaces, and human skin. In a hospital setting, patients, healthcare workers, and visitors are each a source of germs. Depending on the type of infection, people may or may not show symptoms, meaning you could be exposed to infectious agents without even knowing it. Within a hospital, there are many areas where germs can be spread:
- Dry Surfaces in Patient Care Areas
- Wet Surfaces
- Moist Environments and Biofilms
- Indwelling Medical Devices
- Dust or Decaying Debris
Those that aren’t vaccinated, immune, or have weakened immune systems are considered susceptible individuals. When germs enter a vulnerable person’s body, the microbes invade tissues, multiply, and ultimately cause an infection. Having a healthy immune system and taking proper preventative measures to strengthen your immune system is highly encouraged, as this will help fight the germs that your body encounters. In a hospital environment, there often many factors that can increase a patient’s susceptibility to further infection:
- Weakened Immune System as a Result of Underlying Health Conditions
- Certain Antibiotics, Steroids, and Cancer Medications
- Urinary Catheters, Tubes, and Surgeries
It’s recommended to be aware of these factors if you or a loved one has increased susceptibility. Providers throughout the United States learn to recognize risks through thorough training and performing necessary infection prevention measures to prevent infection from occurring and further protect susceptible individuals.
Viruses and bacteria don’t move themselves, meaning transmission must occur in some shape or form. Germs can be transmitted between two or more individuals through the surrounding environment and on various surfaces, especially in a hospital setting. Transmission of viruses and bacteria is drastically reduced by taking proper preventative measures, maintaining a clean environment, and providing adequate PPE and other protective features for staff, patients, and visitors. Below are a few ways viruses and bacteria can travel within a hospital setting:
- Contact with germs by touch such as shaking hands with an infected individual and spreading these germs to various surfaces
- Close range travel of respiratory droplets that occurs when an infected individual coughs or sneezes
- Inhalation of viruses and bacteria traveling through the air either from talking, coughing, sneezing, or dust
- Transmission of bloodborne pathogens related to sharps injuries
Hospitals can take many preventative measures to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria since they are such a high-risk environment for infection. From the use of protective barriers and PPE to providing infection control education and simply keeping a clean environment, each of the steps below will help further protect employees, patients, and visitors of hospitals.
Implement the Use of Protective Barriers
Hospitals around the country continue to incorporate the use of protective barriers to protect staff and patients by reducing the risk of transmission during close-quarter encounters. Sneeze guards for hospitals are expertly designed out of high-quality, shatter-resistant plexiglass to provide your employees and patients with a comfortable, safe environment.
- Lexan Safety Shield: Hospitals can outfit one room or their entire facility with Lexan, an industry-leading, shatter-resistant plexiglass material. This will provide your staff and patients with the protection they need while visiting the hospital.
- PET-G Shield: Along with sneeze guards for cubicles, reception areas, and exam rooms, there are also PET-G Shields available for personal protection. Your staff can have an additional level of protection from respiratory droplets and other bodily fluids that carry viruses and bacteria.
Provide Adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Employees at hospitals are on the front lines of encountering germs, viruses, and bacteria. Implementing the use of quality personal protective equipment is essential in preventing further spread and reducing contact with contagious patients. There is a variety of PPE available for nurses and doctors from waterproof gowns and shoe covers to face shields and masks.
While it may not seem necessary to wear gloves in all interactions with patients, your staff and patients will be more protected. Wearing gloves is particularly essential in situations where employees’ potential to come in contact with blood or other bodily fluids is high.
Create an Infection-Control Policy
Forming an infection-control policy for your hospital is incredibly beneficial to have available for staff to utilize as a resource. The plan will provide information on how to identify high-risk patients, information about contracting or transmitting viruses and bacteria, and guidelines for when patients should be placed in isolation to prevent further contact with employees, other patients, and visitors.
Provide Infection Control Education
Hospital settings should provide continued, recurring education on infection control. These courses prepare employees to identify common infections and take measures to prevent further spread. A few examples of infection control training opportunities are bloodborne pathogen and droplet-borne infections.
Immediately Identify Contagions
Adequate training and education will help your staff know how to immediately identify highly contagious infections such as the flu or pneumonia. It’s beneficial to have a database of common symptoms that could be signs of infectious viruses or bacteria. If your employees are aware of these, they will be able to test the patient immediately to rule out or begin treating the infection.
Disinfect and Keep Surfaces Clean
Surfaces within a hospital are breeding grounds for germs, viruses, and bacteria. It’s incredibly essential that exam rooms are thoroughly cleaned after each patient, as this helps prevent transmission to new patients. Additionally, waiting rooms, break rooms, and nurse or doctor stations should be cleaned regularly throughout the day.
Wash Your Hands
Regular handwashing is critical when it comes to the transmission of germs. Hands should be washed with warm water and soapy for at least 20 seconds. It’s encouraged to stress the importance for staff members and visitors in the hospital setting to wash their hands before eating, drinking, providing care, and between patients. Establishing regular handwashing will significantly reduce the chances of transmitting viruses and bacteria throughout your healthcare facility.
Optimize Your Facility’s Infection Control Today
Regardless of the size of your hospital, it’s incredibly important to take proper precautions to protect your staff, patients, and visitors from viruses and bacteria. The recent pandemic has caused many facilities to restructure their infection control practices by implementing more strict preventative measures and install sneeze guards throughout areas of the hospital, with high traffic areas being a primary focus. If you’re ready to optimize your facility’s infection control, it’s encouraged to learn about sneeze guards for hospitals today.