There’s more to maintaining the health of your patients than treating them for their existing conditions. Providing a high level of quality care also means keeping them safe from additional health risks.
Health risks may include everything from a slip and fall to a flu outbreak to more serious matters like strep throat, UTIs and gastrointestinal infections.
If these or any other infection has recently affected your organization, it’s time to re-assess your infection prevention and control strategy. If no infections have occurred thus far, it’s best to keep building on the infection prevention practices you’re currently using.
The four tips listed below can help you lay the foundation for an infection-fighting strategy or improve the one you already have.
1. Create a dedicated quality care and infection prevention team
Fighting harmful bacteria is the responsibility of all staff, so it makes sense to put employees from various departments in charge of infection prevention. A dedicated team can help ensure there are no gaps in your plan to prevent outbreaks. The combined knowledge and experience of each person will provide you with all the information you need to:
- identify high-risk areas where an infection may occur
- improve antibiotic treatment protocols
- limit the transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
- expand infection surveillance capabilities
Additionally, a dedicated team can facilitate stronger communication and collaboration as staff works to keep infections at bay – and to control them in the event of an outbreak.
2. Close the gaps across all department functions
Beyond your dedicated team, all staff members should be actively working to avoid an outbreak. Every employee needs to understand the critical importance of infection prevention and be committed to their role in it.
This begins with sharing the right information. Educate your whole team – not just those who work directly with patients – about infection control. Make sure food service individuals understand the best practices to use when preparing and distributing meals. Talk to housekeeping about the personal protective equipment they should use while they work. Explain infection prevention and control to your administrative staff, too.
Also remember to correct bad habits, even for seemingly simple prevention efforts like hand-washing and the use of gloves. These are two of the most commonly overlooked aspects of infection control, but they make a big difference.
3. Streamline infection surveillance
Just as you must close the gaps between each team’s role in infection prevention, you need to also streamline surveillance. This is hard to do with incomplete documentation of outbreaks or a lack of adherence to evidence-based guidelines. However, having all the infection information you need in one place can do wonders for how well you prevent and control outbreaks.
Imagine if you could access infection records at the click of a few buttons instead of spending hours sifting through paper files. Or, if you had the option to track infections on a map or evaluate infection data in terms of category, type and culture organism. You’d have a much deeper understanding of the infections your organization commonly deals with, and you’d be in a better position to prevent future outbreaks.
You don’t need more time in the day or even extra staff to do this. You just need the right tools to help you keep your patients safe.
4. Act fast and track everything
The faster you can identify an infection, the less risk it will present to your patients and staff. Streamlining surveillance will help you notice an outbreak, but you need to have an action plan in place. This is key to controlling an outbreak. A clearly-communicated, effective action plan can be the difference between a small, manageable outbreak and one that affects many patients.
But, the plan you have in place today doesn’t necessarily have to be the one you use tomorrow. Whenever an outbreak happens, gather all the data you can. Record patient interventions and identify clear categories to make sense of the data. Make graphs to reflect employee performance and create a full overview of how effective all infection control and treatment efforts were.
If you’re not currently dealing with an outbreak, you should be continuing the work to keep infections at bay. If an outbreak recently affected your organization, it’s worth trying a new approach to how you prevent and control the spread of harmful bacteria. Fortunately, the tips above can guide you in improving your organization’s performance when managing infections.