There are many processes that must be followed in order to break the chain of infection and prevent susceptible individuals from becoming ill. The individual could be the patient or the worker. In order to reduce the likelihood of spreading infection, remember these three important concepts.
First Do No Harm
Patient safety must always be at the forefront of each patient encounter. Have you posted the Cover Your Cough posters yet? We are entering the time of the year where there will be an increase in respiratory illness and it is important to protect all patients while they wait for their appointment.
These provide the baseline to reduce the spread of infection to workers and patients. When used in combination, the risk of spreading infection decreases. Take the following actions when providing patient care:
- Hand washing must be performed prior to providing care, after touching a patient or a contaminated surface, and after removal of personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Utilize PPE in every situation where there is potential exposure to blood, body fluid, or respiratory secretions. The selection of PPE should be based on the risk of exposure to the worker. For instance, if there is the likelihood of a splash to the eyes, nose, or mouth, use a mask and safety glasses to protect the face.
- Surface disinfection should be performed with a hospital-level surface cleaner/disinfectant. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for both contact time and the use of appropriate PPE. Establish a cleaning schedule based on the tasks performed and the potential for contamination during patient care.
Your processes should meet the national standards outlined by the CDC and the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI). Depending on the type of instrumentation being processed in your facility, there may be other organizational guidelines that must be considered. Patients should never wonder about the sterility of the instruments being used for a procedure. As a best practice, packages should be opened in front of the patient when the procedure is to begin. There are several other important items to remember when managing instrumentation used for procedures.
- Single-use items are designed to be used for one patient during one procedure. The item must be discarded after use; never disinfected or sterilized for reuse.
- Dental practices should consider disposable tips for air/water syringes. Any non-disposable instrument which enters the patient’s mouth must be cleaned, packaged and sterilized after patient use. This includes metal impression trays and mouth mirrors which can withstand the sterilization process.
- Utilize heavy-duty utility gloves when handling contaminated instruments. These gloves may be reused but should be surfaced disinfected or washed with soap and water after each use. Some gloves have the ability to be sterilized on a routine basis, but follow the manufacturer’s direction to protect the integrity of the gloves.
- Equipment utilized for processing instruments such as an ultrasonic cleaner or washer-disinfector must be cleared by the FDA. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning, maintenance, and use of the equipment.
- Monitoring of the sterilization process includes the use of internal and external chemical indicators in each package and spore testing as a general rule each week and with implantable items.
This list includes several important concepts which if implemented will create a culture of safety and reduce the likelihood of spread of infection. Take the time now to compare these recommendations to the activities in your practice and make any necessary corrections for a safe environment for patients and staff.