A nosocomial infection is an infection acquired by a patient while in the hospital. Bacteria like MRSA, C. diff and staph can linger on hospital equipment and in rooms for weeks, posing a health threat to existing and future patients. Although hospitals have a responsibility to provide clean treatment environments, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that as many as 8 percent of hospital patients contract nosocomial infections. Some of the most common hospital-acquired infections include bloodstream infections, urinary tract infections, surgical site infections and pneumonia.
Unfortunately, nosocomial infections can significantly lengthen the amount of time patients spend in the hospital, and they are also a leading cause of death in many WHO countries. Many medical centers have recognized the need to control nosocomial infections and are taking aggressive steps to reduce the number of infections acquired in hospitals around the world.
Ventilators, although life-saving, can be a direct line for bacteria into the lungs. Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is very common and also very deadly. One of the easiest and most effective ways of preventing VAP is regular cleaning of the inside of a patient’s mouth while on a ventilator. Additionally, a patient’s bed should be raised to approximately 45 degrees at all times, and hospital workers should thoroughly clean their hands before touching the patient or the ventilator.
IV lines can stay in the body for days at a time, but central line IVs can stay in for weeks or months at a time. Thousands of patients die from IV complications every year, due to bacteria introduced to the catheter site when dressings are applied and changed, or the IV catheter becomes dislodged or is touched for any reason. Many hospitals, such as Johns Hopkins, are implementing checklists for handling IVs and central line IVs. Doctors and nurses are beginning to go through a process of thorough sanitation using hand soap, antiseptic solutions and sterilized garb before touching a central IV line. The results are lowered instances of infection; with 138 hospitals nationwide report zero central line IV infections.
Infection Prevention and Education Training
Germ prevention falls largely on the shoulders of sanitation departments and housekeeping. All surfaces must be kept clean and free of dangerous bacteria. Linens must be appropriately disinfected and anti-bacterial agents must be used to clean telephones, light switches, bed rails, remote controls, door knobs and other frequently touched surfaces in hospital rooms.
The CDC has established guidelines for hospitals and ambulatory outpatient centers in an effort to prevent infections through staff training and education. Staff members are expected to adhere to certain guidelines, including regular infection prevention training per OSHA and federal guidelines. Hospital employees must submit to proper hand-washing techniques and also learn to properly sterilize all reusable equipment. Doing so can greatly reduce the instances of nosocomial infections and also save some of the 90,000 lives lost due to hospital infections every year.
About the Author:
Adam Nix writes publications and educational articles relating to the field of hospital safety, medical practices, and current events in the medical and health industry.