Quick Reminder: Demand Hand Washing

superbugThe worst place for a sick caree is often the one place where they have to get better–the hospital. So, while the hospital may have the technology and treatments to help your caree, it also contains those dratted super bugs which can make your caree worse.

The Centers for Disease Control warns that a deadly drug-resistant strain of bacteria is on the rise in U.S. hospitals. Known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, these germs are very difficult to treat, says the CDC, and can be deadly. One report cites they can contribute to death in up to 50% of patients who become infected.

Currently, the bug is found only in healthcare settings. Patients at risk for infection include those whose care requires devices like ventilators, urinary catheters, or intravenous catheters and those who take long courses of certain antibiotics.

The CDC recommends that staff in healthcare facilities, like hospitals and long-term care facilities, follow these precautions to prevent the spread of CRE:

  • Wash hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after caring for a patient
  • Carefully clean and disinfect rooms and medical equipment
  • Wear gloves and a gown before entering the room of a CRE patient
  • Keep patients with CRE infections in a single room or sharing a room with someone else who has a CRE infection
  • Whenever possible, dedicate equipment and staff to CRE patients
  • Remove gloves and gown and washing hands before leaving the room of a CRE patient
  • Only prescribe antibiotics when necessary
  • Remove temporary medical devices as soon as possible

If your caree is hospitalized or resides in a long-term care facility, be diligent about asking staff to watch their hands before providing care. And, talk with your caree’s doctor about removing temporary devices, like a catheter, as soon as possible.

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1 Comment on "Quick Reminder: Demand Hand Washing"

Sep 21, 2013

You know, it’s so incredibly important to make sure that health professionals are washing their hands. It is the single most important strategy in minimising infection. And patients, visitors and caregivers are a great source of monitoring! I’ve had patient’s relative contact me and say “Hey, I loved the care that my mother received and this is not a complaint: but I just didn’t see the nurse wash her hands….” When I go back to that nurse, almost always, she’s mortified! It’s easy to be busy and focussed on the task at hand, but it’s a great reminder to know that patients and their carers do (and should!) watch and comment.

A great way of remembering when health professionals should be washing their hands is the protocol that the World Health Organisation established, called “The 5 moments of handwashing”. Those moments are (1) before touching a patient, (2) before a procedure, (3) after a procedure, (4) after touching a patient, and (5) after touching a patient’s surroundings. So go forth and monitor away :)