As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, it is increasingly important for healthcare organizations to adopt tools and programs to promote infection control. Prioritizing infection control helps support the health and wellbeing of staff, patients and visitors. A good first step to support your infection control efforts is to establish a proper set of policies that can be followed to prevent the spread of infection in your organization. To help you get started, we have put together a guide on the 10 must-have infection control policies every healthcare organization should have:
1. Hand Hygiene
Good hand hygiene can reduce the risk of flu, food poisoning and other HAIs. It can’t be stressed enough that this is perhaps one of the most important policies to have in place, especially now, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
If using soap: wash for 40-60 seconds, rub all areas with soap and dry your hands with a single use towel. Don’t forget to use a towel to turn off the faucet and if possible, use it when a touching door handle to exit
If using alcohol rub: use enough product to cover hands, rub until dry.
To be more thorough, it may be helpful to include notes to specify how often and in what instances should staff be washing their hands. Hand hygiene is a key component of the global response to COVID-19. Read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hand hygiene recommendations here.
2. Glove Use
Much like hand hygiene, wearing gloves and properly disposing of them plays an important part in reducing the spread of HAIs. Be sure to mention the following in your policy:
Wear gloves when handling body related materials such as blood, secretions, excretions, membranes, body fluids, etc.
Change gloves between tasks
Properly discard gloves after completion of a task and perform proper hand hygiene protocol
3. Dress Code
Medical gowns serve as a protective garment to keep healthcare staff safe from bodily fluids or harmful substances. When equipped with proper gowns, staff can better protect themselves and avoid the spread of infectious diseases. When included in a policy, the following points can educate staff on when to use and dispose of medical gowns:
Wear gowns in any instances where splashes or spraying of secretions, excretions, blood or bodily fluids might be present
Following an incident where a gown becomes soiled, remove gown as soon as possible and perform hand hygiene
4. Face Protection
The impact of COVID-19 has required that healthcare staff wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for COVID-19 patients. Face protections help protect healthcare staff from contracting and spreading infectious diseases. All healthcare organizations should create a policy around PPE and provide specific instructions on when to use and how to apply this equipment. For more information, visit the CDC’s page on using PPE in healthcare settings.
5. Prevention of needlestick injuries
Surgical instruments and needles in a healthcare environment can be dangerous and pose risks to patients and staff. Having a set of policies in place outlining how to handle instruments or dispose of needles helps staff practice situational awareness to keep their patients and colleagues safe.
6. Respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette
COVID-19 prevention efforts make this next policy even more critical to add to your library. Beyond noting that individuals should cover up their nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing and perform proper hand hygiene frequently, hospitals should include in their respiratory hygiene policy:
Place patients with respiratory ailments away from common areas
Post signs alerting people entering these areas to take extra care and remind them to perform hand hygiene when leaving
Post signs with the proper steps for hygiene etiquette
Make preventative tools available for staff and patients to use
For more information on respiratory hygiene best practices, review guidelines from the CDC on hygiene etiquette and practice.
7. Regular cleaning
Ensure policies are in a place that detail the importance of regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, especially common areas and spaces with infectious patients. For a comprehensive guide to healthcare cleaning guidelines, check out the CDC’s page on disinfection and sterilization.
Linens have the potential to carry harmful viruses and bacteria. To help protect staff and patients from contracting an HAI, create a policy where staff must wear gloves, gowns, and facial protection when handling linens. The policy should also cover that staff dispose of protective clothing immediately after use.
9. Waste Disposal
To protect staff and patients from harmful waste, it’s important to have a waste management procedure in place. Your procedure should clearly outline how staff should handle waste and the process for safely disposing of it. Most importantly, your policy should include how to properly dispose of waste that has been contaminated with blood, human tissues and bodily fluids.
10. Patient Care Equipment
When healthcare equipment becomes soiled, staff need guidance on how to properly clean these surfaces. A patient care equipment policy communicates to staff that they must clean and disinfect this equipment regularly to prevent the spread of infection. You should include a detailed procedure that outlines the specific steps and materials staff should use to clean equipment.
How RLDatix Supports Infection Control
While it’s important that your organization implements the right policies and procedures, it is equally important that policies are efficiently communicated across the organization. RLDatix PolicyStat helps staff quickly access policies at the point of care and empowers them to take charge of adhering to hospital policies with
Robust searching capabilities to support staff in easily finding and accessing policies
Streamlined approval workflows to improve organization-wide communication
Automated processes around acknowledgements to support accountability for all staff members
COVID-19 has put infection prevention at the forefront of healthcare organizations across the world. The RLDatix Infection Surveillance module is built to mitigate the risk of HAIs by helping your organization use data to manage outbreaks, improve hand hygiene, track patients and meet reporting regulations. The RLDatix software helps organizations further their infection prevention efforts allowing them to
Receive instant contact tracing reports to help IPs prevent and mitigate the spread of HAIs and other communicable diseases
Forecast infection risks in your community before diagnosis
Respond to early indication of sentinel events with critical decision support, based on best practice
Within your organization, it’s also important to find ways to partner with your Quality and Risk Departments to promote a culture of safety. This is a key step that shouldn’t be overlooked, as creating a safe healthcare environment is equally important to them as it is to you.
Incorporating these policies into your infection control efforts will help staff members better protect themselves, patients and visitors from the spread of infectious diseases within your organization. Once you have developed these policies, it will be crucial for your organization to adopt tools that support overall infection surveillance and the streamlined communication of your infection control policies.