How Nurses Keep From Spreading Germs and Bringing Them Home From Work
Exposure to germs is an occupational hazard that nurses must manage. During a shift, the average nurse’s uniform picks up a bacteria colony growth of 1,246 per square inch, according to a study published in the Journal of Health and Epidemiology. In addition, a significant number of bacteria remained after 48 hours.
To reduce the spread of infection, hospitals take a series of steps to prevent, contain and kill infections. These measures include procedural, policy, regulatory, technological and sterile manufacturing initiatives. Here are some of the steps hospitals take to keep nurses from spreading germs and bringing them home.
Procedures, Policies and RegulationsPreview Changes
The Centers for Disease Control has published detailed guidelines for steps health care facilities can take to keep their environment disinfected and sterile. One of the fundamental steps is educating health care workers about risks of exposure to infectious agents and how these can be mitigated by wearing personal protective equipment. Policies to ensure that hospital staff use protective equipment and avoid dangerous chemicals are also recommended.
Other sets of guidelines involve cleaning patient-care devices, sterilizing equipment and surfaces, and shipping and storing sterile items. In addition, the CDC recommends implementing quality control procedures to ensure that guidelines for disinfection and sterilization are followed.
Altogether, the CDC’s guidelines cover twenty major procedural areas in detail. Many of these are regulated by the health care industry. Hospitals also have their own internal policies and procedures. For instance, the University of Rochester Medical Center has a Sterile Processing Department that handles sterile cleaning, preparation and storage of medical equipment.
To implement the extensive sterilization procedures they must use, health care facilities are increasingly turning to automation. The market for disinfection robots, which stood at $30 million in 2014, is projected to grow to $80 million by 2017, reports Modern Healthcare. The most popular types of disinfectant robots use ultraviolet C-light hydrogen peroxide vapor to kill infections on hospital surfaces. Due to the time it takes to thoroughly clean a room, robots are deployed mainly to intensive care units, burn units and operating rooms.
Hospitals also are using electronic monitoring systems to optimize staff hand-washing procedures to minimize the spread of infection. The Greenville Health System, for instance, reduced the rate of MRSA health care association infections by 42 percent by adopting the DebMed System. This system monitors sanitizer dispenser levels and analyzes them against staff activity to ensure that staff members are washing their hands as often as they need to. White Plains Hospital has achieved 99.9 percent accuracy in monitoring hand sanitization by using BIOVIGIL, which employs badges with flashing lights to let staff members know whether their hands have been cleaned successfully after using a dispenser.
Sterile Manufacturing and Shipping Processes
Sterilization technology receives support from specialized processes that optimize the manufacturing and shipping of sterile materials. Medical seals and parts provider Apple Rubber, for example, uses a special clean room with a dedicated mold inspection area to produce, wash and package products made of liquid silicone rubber, which has chemical properties that make it particularly resistant to infection. This process makes the products suitable for medical applications, such as medical seals, o-rings for dialysers, feeding devices and IV devices. Once such materials have been manufactured, health care providers use specialized shipping materials and procedures to keep them sterile.