Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are a serious risk to patient safety. One in 25 U.S. patients will contract an infection during their hospital stay, according to the CDC’s first national and state HAI progress report; perhaps shockingly, this is an improvement from years prior. The report’s goal, analyzing data from 2013 but not published until this year, is to help aid in eliminating HAIs through surveillance and prevention programs- a reasonable target considering these infections are preventable.
“Research shows that when healthcare facilities, care teams, and individual doctors and nurses are aware of infection problems and take specific steps to prevent them, rates of some targeted HAIs can decrease by more than 70 percent,” the report reads.
There are five HAIs most often contracted by patients after their admission to the hospital: central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI), catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI), Clostridium difficile infections commonly referred to as C.Diff, MRSA, and the most prevalent, surgical site infections (SSI).
While most safety measures must come from doctors, nurses and health facilities, there are steps patients can take to help reduce their risk of contracting HAIs, according to the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths.
1. Research the hospital’s HAI rate. This may take some diligence; start with the CDC’s progress report and ask hospital staff or your possible surgeons directly.
2. Ask your doctor about the devices used to keep you warm during surgery. Currently 80 percent of hospitals use the Bair Hugger Warming Blanket System; However, the device is also fighting multiple lawsuits for aiding in patients developing life-threatening SSIs.
3. Do not personally shave the surgical site prior to the operation. The blade may knick your skin, creating an opening - no matter how small- for bacteria to enter.
4. Keep your hands away from your mouth. This sounds easy but most people don’t realize how much they touch their face until their consciously trying not to. C.Diff can survive on various surfaces for days and is not killed by alcohol sanitizers. You should also be wary of where you place utensils while eating.
5. Keep track of time on the day of your surgery. Many surgeries require a pre-surgical antibiotic one hour before going under, remind a nurse if you don’t receive yours on time.
6. Pay attention to your IV. They should always be inserted and removed under clean conditions and changed regularly every three to four days, but ask your doctor for a specific timeline regarding your IVs. Let your nurses know if too much time goes by without a change or redness occurs.
7. Ask your doctor to test you for MRSA prior to the operation. One in three people have staph infections in their nose or on skin usually without ever becoming ill and two in every 100 people carry MRSA. If you test positive there are extra precautions the hospital staff can take to prevent the staph from developing into a life-threatening infection. The test is non-invasive, usually completed with a nasal swab.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask your caretakers to wash their hands in front of you. Many healthcare sites, including the CDC, advise patients to ask their doctors if it’s not done in front of them.
By: JMurell of Safer America