We speak with our founder and CEO, Deirdre Kennedy, on the importance of correct infection prevention & control practices
With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting our daily lives, from kids and teachers returning to school, to attending hospital appointments and visiting older relatives, correct infection prevention & control practices have never been so important. We speak to Deirdre Kennedy, founder and CEO of Best Practice Healthcare about the importance of infection prevention and control, and what exactly it means as we navigate our way through this COVID-19 pandemic.
Infection Prevention & Control is a set of practices and measures designed to reduce or eliminate the risk of infection being transmitted, and until recently it would have been categorised primarily as a healthcare service issue. While optimum Infection Prevention & Control practices should still be part of the fundamental standards of all healthcare services, we now need to realise that breaking the chain of infection needs to happen beyond the four walls of a hospital or healthcare service. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that we all have a responsibility to break the chain of infection. Infection Prevention & Control is now a very real public health issue and more people have started to ask ‘what can we do to protect ourselves and those around us?’.
We can all strive to remove a link in the chain of infection, be it by removing the reservoir for infection by enhanced cleaning routines or removing the mode of transmission by practicing proper hand hygiene. Effective Infection Prevention & Control practices tend not to be overly complex, but they do require consistency and a commitment to change for the better, ultimately protecting ourselves and those we care for.
Infection Prevention & Control measures can save lives. These measures can reduce the occurrence of Healthcare Associated Infections known as HCAIs, infections acquired after the person attends or becomes an inpatient in a healthcare facility. Basically, the person attending the healthcare facility for a specific health issue, gained another healthcare issue through acquiring an infection in the facility.
The European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) reports that every year over 4 million people in the EU acquire a HCAI resulting in over 100,000 deaths. We have a responsibility as health workers to ensure the delivery of safe care to our patients and service users, yet still we have a high rate of HCAI’s in Ireland. We can always improve our Infection Prevention & Control Practices, be it taking the extra few seconds to wash our hands correctly, ensuring equipment we use has been decontaminated correctly or even taking action to reduce or eliminate potential infection risks in our workplaces. Healthcare progression and learning can never be static, we need to keep reaching for better practices, making the healthcare setting a safer place for everyone.
A common misconception about Infection Prevention & Control is that Personal Protective Equipment known as PPE is some form of a magic shield protecting the wearer from infectious agents. PPE is only a thin layer of latex or plastic separating the wearer and the infection risk. If the PPE is not worn and removed correctly it can be the cause of infection transmission rather than the solution.
In my experience as both a nurse and a patient, PPE can give a false sense of security to the healthcare workers that they are not at risk if they wear the PPE, but what about the patient? Research into glove use has shown that poor practices still occur with the incorrect use of gloves putting our patients and service users at risk by healthcare workers not performing hand hygiene after removing gloves, wearing the same gloves after moving to another patient or wearing the same gloves for different tasks.
Attitudes towards PPE will change for the better with more education and upskilling in the rationale for use, correct procedures for wearing the PPE and understanding that the PPE is a tool to enable safer care provision for our service users and patients too.
Infection Prevention & Control practices are most certainly applicable to healthcare services, and should be a fundamental part of care provision across every healthcare setting, but the responsibility of breaking the chain of infection does not lie solely with people working within these healthcare services.
The service user/patients of a healthcare facility and the general public can all play a role in breaking the chain of infection. Examples of this would be practicing good respiratory hygiene, hand hygiene, getting vaccinated if you can get vaccinated, and being proactive in optimising your own health and seek medical advice for underlying health conditions.
These actions have the potential to reduce the chances of us acquiring or transmitting an infection, as we break the chain of infection at different links. If every patient was enabled to perform hand hygiene throughout their hospital stay, the ‘mode of transmission’ link in the chain of infection could potentially be removed if that service user/patient were carrying infectious agents on their hands. A simple action, but it could have a positive impact on reducing the occurrence of Healthcare Associated Infections if everyone attending or working in the healthcare setting performed hand hygiene at the appropriate times.
Please note that the views, opinions and information expressed in this article do not constitute medical advice, and Best Practice Healthcare assumes no liability for the views, opinions and information expressed within and/or any consequences, causes or actions as a direct or indirect result of this article.
CEO & Founder
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