Nurses’ Role in the Prevention of Healthcare-Associated Infections

Subject: Nursing
Pages: 4
Words: 826
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: College

Introduction

Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) refer to diseases that patients contract while undergoing medical or surgical treatment (Klevens et al, 2002). HAIs cause many deaths that are preventable if precautionary measures are implemented. Their effects have adverse implications on the health care sector because they lead to increase in health care costs. HAIs occur in different health care settings such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, surgical centres, and clinics (Klevens et al, 2002).

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In these settings, infections increase costs of treatment and lengthen hospitalization periods. Common infections result from pneumonia, surgical site infections, bloodstream infections, and urinary tract infections associated with use of catheters. Risk factors to HIAs include organizational factors, patient characteristics, and medical procedures (Klevens et al, 2002). Nurses have a responsibility to prevent health-care associated infections.

Role of nurses in prevention of healthcare-associated infections

Research conducted revealed that HAIs are preventable if proper precautionary measures are implemented. Efforts to prevent HAIs mainly focus on ways to reduce patients’ exposure to infections. Many infections are primarily caused by poor infection-control practices. The role of nurses in prevention of HAIs involves ensuring that infection-control practices are strictly adhered to (Safdar and Abad, 2008). As such, nurses should ensure that equipment are sterilized and disinfected properly before being used on patients (Klevens et al, 2002).

For example, unsterilized surgical equipments cause surgical site infections during surgery. They should also ensure that they do not reuse needles and syringes because reusing needles increases changes of infection. Such equipment should be properly disposed after use. In addition, nurses should ensure that they do not use single-use medication vials for numerous patients because such practices increase risk of infection.

Another role played by nurses to prevent infection is hand decontamination (Safdar and Abad, 2008). Nurses should decontaminate hands in different situations. These include before and after direct contact with patients, after exposure to body fluids that may be infected, after removal of gloves and other protective clothing, and after any encounter that exposes nurses to a patient’s environment or surroundings (Safdar and Abad, 2008).

Nurses should decontaminate their hands with a recommended handrub such as alcohol. However, in cases where risk of spread of infectious organisms resistant to alcohol is high, soap and water should be used. Nurses should not wear hand jewelry during work, they should cover body cuts, and should always maintain short nails (Safdar and Abad, 2008). For effective hand decontamination, four steps should be followed. These include preparation for washing, washing, rinsing, and drying. Air-drying is recommended to avoid contamination.

Nurses should wear protective equipment when handling patients and samples (Safdar and Abad, 2008). Choice of protective clothing should depend on risk of transmission of microorganisms to patients or risk of contamination of a nurse’s clothing by a patient’s blood, body secretions, or body fluids. Nurses should wear gloves when conducting procedures such as surgery and wound dressing, and when handling a patient’s blood or body fluids.

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Gloves should be used once and disposed properly after use. Nurses should never use same gloves for many patients. Such practices increase risk of infection. Nurses should use aprons, facemasks, eye protection equipment, and respiratory protection (Safdar and Abad, 2008).

It is nurses’ role to ensure safe handling and disposal of needles and syringes (Safdar and Abad, 2008). To improve safety and reduce risk of infection, containers that contain used sharps should be stored in a safe location to avoid spillage. In addition, they should be closed when not in use, and should be properly discarded when full. Nurses should educate patients on proper ways of hand decontamination, and ways to prevent exposing themselves to infections (Klevens et al, 2002).

Moreover, nurses should educate patients on proper ways of inserting catheters to avoid urinary tract infections (Safdar and Abad, 2008). On the other hand, it is the role of nurses to educate patients on safe ways of entereal feeding, preparation of feds, administration of drugs, and safe ways of managing vascular access devices.

Finally, nurses should ensure safe disposal of waste. Waste should be separated into different containers depending on risk of infection. Nurses should ensure that health care practitioners label, store, transport, and dispose waste in accordance with national and local policies on medical waste disposal. Finally, nurses should educate patients on proper ways of medical waste disposal.

Conclusion

Nurses play significant roles in prevention of healthcare-associated infections. They play their role in different areas that include hand hygiene, use of protective equipment, waste disposal, use and disposal of needles and syringes, and education of patients. Nurses should wear protective equipment when handling patients and always ensure that they decontaminate hands before and after handling patients.

They should ensure safe disposal of waste and adhere to guidelines on safe use of syringes and needles. For example, they should use needles once and properly disposed them after use. Finally, nurses play the role of educating patients on safe ways of drug administration, management of devices, and prevention of infections.

References

Klevens, R., Edwards, J., and Richards, C. (2002). Estimating Health Care-associated Infections and Deaths in US Hospitals. Public Health Report, 122(2), 160-166.

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Safdar, N., and Abad, C. (2008). Educational Interventions for Prevention of Healthcare-Associated Infection: A Systematic Review. Critical Care Medicine, 36(3), 933-940.