Preventing Infections in the Hospital: Steps for Hospital Staff and Patients
You have been admitted to the hospital for care. Your illness or procedures may put you at an increased risk of further illness or infection while at the hospital. Rest assured that the hospital staff has standards in place to ensure that your stay is a safe one.
Hospitals follow safety and quality measures that are set by government organizations, researchers, and expert panels. These measures require hospitals to adopt safety techniques and procedures, report on how well they are implementing these procedures, and regularly train hospital staff. Here are some measures that the hospital staff will take to prevent unnecessary problems during your hospital stay.
Clean Barrier Steps
An infection can pass to you through surfaces or be carried from patient to patient through healthcare workers. This can lead to an illness that has nothing to do with your original reason for going to the hospital. For most, the best step to protect against infection is hand washing. Your hospital may have alcohol-based cleansers available near the entrance of your room or a sink with soap in your room.
The staff’s goal is to help you stay healthy. A reminder to wash their hands can help them do that.
If there are any specific prevention steps needed in your care, the hospital will post special instructions by your room. Instructions may include wearing a mask, gloves, or special gown. Again, feel free to remind medical staff to follow the posted instructions if they are not doing so. If you are concerned about a technique to prevent infection, speak up. Ask your doctor about how he or she will prevent infection.
The hospital staff does the following to help prevent infection:
Staff should also wear gloves if they are removing fluids, touching a wound, or examining your mouth or private parts. Many hospitals also have a program to identify patients who harbor dangerous bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant staph infection (MRSA).
There are other steps you can take to lower your risk of infection. Lifestyle factors, such as smoking, can increase your risk of infection. Consider these good habits and lifestyle changes:
Tell your care staff right away if you have any signs of an infection. This can include redness, swelling, pain, or fevers and chills.
You and the hospital staff are working jointly to help you get better. If you feel that steps were not taken to keep you safe, you are encouraged to report it to the hospital. Reporting your concerns will help improve your safety and the safety of others. The staff will explain the steps for reporting concerns when you check in to the hospital or soon after. If you are not given the information, feel free to ask for it.
Together, you and your healthcare team can ensure that your hospital stay is a safe one.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Joint Commission
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infection control in healthcare settings. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dhqp/ . Accessed December 29, 2009.
The Joint Commission. Accreditation program: hospital national patient safety goals. The Joint Commission website. Available at: http://www.jointco... . Created 2009. Accessed January 25, 2010
The Joint Commission. Hand hygiene. Available at: http://www.jointco... . Accessed February 1, 2010.
The Joint Commission. Infection control. The Joint Commission website. Available at: http://www.jointcommission.org/PatientSafety/InfectionControl/ . Accessed December 29, 2009.
Surgical wound infection prevention. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.what.php . Updated March 19, 2012. Accessed April 23, 2012.
Last reviewed May 2012 by Peter J. Lucas, MD