It is important to isolate patients that have a known active infection. The mode of transmission will depend on the organism, but to prevent the possible spread from person to person in a hospital setting, patients are required to be in a private room.
It is standard practice that the nurse washes his or her hands when entering a room and again upon exiting the room. Washing hands in this manner prevents the spread of organisms. It is commonly accepted in many facilities to use an alcohol based hand sanitizer. Washing hands with soap and water is the only method to be used when hands are visibly soiled or when in contact with spore forming organisms such as C. difficile.
PPE is specialized clothing or equipment, such as gown, gloves, or googles used to protect the patient and provider from transmitting organisms from one place to another. Required PPE will depend on the task being performed and what infectious agent the patient could have. It is important to know your hospital’s policy on the proper use of PPE and how to properly dispose of used PPE.
Gloves are an essential part of contact precaution. Even though gloves are being worn, it is still necessary to wash your hands or use alcohol based sanitizer before and after a patient encounter. Ask the patient about Latex allergies and confirm that the proper gloves are being used.
A gown is used for all patients that are on contact precaution or when contact with body fluid is anticipated. The gown creates a barrier between the staff member’s skin and uniform and the infectious organism. This helps prevent the organism from transmitting onto the staff uniform.
To prevent the spread of organisms, it is important to limit the time a patient spends out of the room. If the patient needs to go to a test, proper communication of the infection needs to take place so equipment that the patient touches can be properly cleaned.
A patient on contact precautions will have disposable or dedicated equipment such as BP cuff, stethoscopes and thermometers. These items should stay in the room with the patient to minimize the spread of organisms. These items will be discarded or properly sterilized prior to use on another patient.
Soiled linen needs to be properly bagged before coming out of the room. This is to help prevent possible contamination by inadvertently touching the soiled linen against something that is clean.
In some cases, two patients can share a room when they have the same organism that requires them to be in isolation. There is no risk to the patients because they have the same organism.
Patients with a history of MRSA (within the last 6 months) or VRE (within the last 2 years) should be placed in contact isolation upon admission to the hospital. Hospital policy will dictate if isolation can be removed earlier.
Educate your patient. Hand hygiene is the number one way to significantly decrease transmission of organisms from person to person. It is important to understand the infection that the patient has so education can be done with the family to prevent spread of the organism.
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