Prevention of infections is a topical area in the field of nursing practice. Hospitals usually have infection controllers who offer different prevention services to hospitals. However, the only person who can directly prevent infections is the nurse, because he or she is the main caregiver who interacts with the patient at the bedside. This paper discusses the role of the nurse in preventing Hospital-Acquired Infections (HAIs).
Nurses have a role of maintaining good hand hygiene in their practice. The hands of nurses are a leading channel through which germs and pathogens move from one patient to the other (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, 2012). Nurses should ensure that they wash their hands with disinfectants and wear clean gloves before and after contacting each patient. Nurses should also maintain short and natural finger nails to ease penetration of hygiene products.
Nurses have a role of using aseptic methods regularly. Aseptic methods are nursing practices that follow specific procedures with the aim of minimizing the spread of pathogens (White, 2001). For instance, nurses must wash hands when starting a peripheral I.V. line. If applied carefully, this method can shield patients from infections.
Nurses have a role of cleaning and disinfecting medical apparatus. Patients share most medical apparatus and it is the responsibility of the nurse to ensure that such apparatus are clean and disinfected after every use. While hospitals have housekeeping staff, these workers may fear cleaning some apparatus for fear of damaging them. Therefore, it is the responsibility of a nurse to ensure such apparatus are clean. Alternatively, nurses can give the housing staff directions about cleaning specific apparatus, but on such events, the nurse should supervise.
Nurses should apply standard precautions in their practices. Before handling body fluids and blood, nurses should wear protective gloves and masks for their own protection. Nurses should also observe precaution on how they remove and dispose such masks (White, 2001). Right removal of protective covers, proper disposal and good hand hygiene practices are vital in preventing patients’ infections. Every health institution has a duty to provide protective covers to its health personnel and nurses should involve the hospital management on this issue, where the hospital fails.
Nurses have a responsibility of assessing patents’ and taking necessary precautions. Nurses are the basic caretakers and should identify and notify the patient about any unexpected symptoms.Upon identification, nurses should then apply suitable strategies to reduce risk of transmission in the hospital environment. All accredited health institutions have clear guidelines about handling patients with communicable diseases and it is the responsibility of the nurse to familiarize him/herself with such guidelines.
Nurses have a role of educating patients. It is the responsibility of the nurse to explain to the patient and his/her family about the illness and the reasons behind certain medications, or treatment. It is also the responsibility of the nurse to enlighten patients and their caregivers on the need for good or proper hand hygiene practices when handling patients with certain infections. For instance, nurses should educate families, or caregivers of persons with HIV infection about the need to wear protective gloves and avoiding contact with fluids of their patients.
Nurses have a responsibility to use safety machinery. Federal laws require employers to protect nurses and other workers against pathogens that are transmittable through blood. Therefore, nurses have a responsibility to use safety devices when conducting activities that involve the use of sharp objects (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, 2012). On the same note, nurses have a responsibility to order the physicians to remove and store apparatus that the patients no longer needs.
Nurses often assess how a patient is responding to treatment. Where a nurse meets that the patient is doing well and can do without support, then, apparatus such as I.V. lines and urinary catheter needs removal to avoid any contamination. Patients’ easily recuperate following the removal of unnecessary supportive devices. Removal of these devices also decreases chances for spread of HAIs.
Nurses have a role of employing bundle techniques in reducing spread of infections. Bundle approach refer to a set of 3 to 6 infection control and prevention strategies that nurses use jointly, reliably and constantly to minimize the possibility of infection (White, 2001). Through applying bundle techniques strictly, a nurse can largely reduce the number of HAIs. An example of a surgical site infection bundle to minimize the risk of a patient acquiring an infection, could include correct use of prophylactic antibiotics, correct skin preparation, keeping the patient’s body at normal temperatures all through the operation, correct hand washing as well as correct disinfection and sterilization procedures. Nurses should use prophylactic antibiotics to prevent infections that may arise during, or after an operation.
Lastly, nurses have a role of ensuring that they are physically healthy before going to work. Nurses who are unwell can easily transmit infections to patients. Besides, nurses who have low immune can easily acquire infections. Therefore, nurses must take care of their own well-being before going to work. Committed nurses refrain from work when they have infection to avoid compromising the health of patients.
National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (2012). Infection, prevention and control of healthcare-associated infections in primary and community care. London, UK: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
White, L. (2001). Foundations of nursing: Caring for the whole person. Albany, N.Y: Delmar/Thomson Learning.