Over the last few decades, health specialists as well as researchers in the sector have increasingly raised concern over the complications and concurrence of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) (Goldrick, 2009). Despite this, the incidence of HAIs continues to be a problem and is increasing every year.
The term ‘HAIs’ includes both nosocomical infections as well as infections acquired from a wide range of healthcare settings, including home-based care, long-term care and ambulatory care. A number of personnel in healthcare must participate effectively and actively in the process of reducing and preventing HIAs (Goldrick, 2009). Evidently, nurses have the biggest responsibility in controlling infection during all forms of care, from hospital-based care to long-term and home-based care.
According to Burke (2008), nursing is one of the critical specialization required in controlling infection in all areas of healthcare. Although the 1985 study on the efficacy of nosocomical infection control (SENIC) indicated that it is the responsibility of all the involved persons in the healthcare to participate effectively in controlling these infections, it is worth noting that it put an emphasis on nursing as a key area of these efforts (Goldrick, 2009).
The study provided and validated the cost-benefit savings of controlling SENIC using control programs that must include physicians, nurses and other professionals in the healthcare team. Despite this, it is clear that nurses have the critical role in ensuring that HAIs are monitored in all forms of healthcare programs.
First, it is worth noting that the study was the first to emphasise on the need to create a special nursing field known as control nursing, which involves training nurses in HAIs control programs and essential components of these programs. It emphasizes on the need to allocate one infection control nurse for every 250 beds in every hospital ward.
The nurse has the responsibility of creating an infection-free environment in the allocated area by involving a number of activities. For instance, the nurse has the critical role of ensuring that the area is free of microorganisms that may cause infection. The nurse must ensure that the relevant hygiene activities are taken regularly and after every surgical, therapeutic or other intervention on every patient.
An infection control nurse has the responsibility of ensuring that there are adequate hygiene measures taken to prevent contamination of patient-support items and facilities, ranging from the beddings to surgical and dietary facilities provided to the patient. The nurse must ensure that other parties involved, especially those in hygiene department, must use the relevant guidelines when taking such activities as cleaning and replacing patient-support items and facilities.
Moreover, infection control nurses have the critical responsibilities of providing information and feedback to visitors regarding the need to keep hygiene, especially by providing education programs to them as they visit patients. Such nurses must ensure that there is effective communication between the visitors and the nursing personnel in order to control contamination from outside the setting.
A major role of nurses in controlling and preventing HAIs is observed in patient education programs, both in hospital-based and home-based care. For instance, nurses are the main professionals involved in providing education programs to patients and their carers in order to ensure that they are ware of the possible infections and the need to reduce chances of such infections.
In this case, nurses must involve the patients and their carers in education programs that will provide them with guidelines on how they should behave in their homes as well as when in hospitals to reduce HAIs (Weinstein, Siegel & Brennan, 2005).
Secondly, nurses must carry out the crucial role of assessing the need for catheterization in care for patients with long-term conditions such urinary problems that require catheterization to remove urine. In such patients, the risk of infection with HAIs is very high, and often results to fatal conditions, especially if the patients re under home-based care.
It is the role of nurses to assess the need for the use of catheters (Weinstein, Siegel & Brennan, 2005). If they determine that catheterization is to be applied in home-based on long-term care, then there is need for the nurses to ensure that they provide frequent instructions on hygiene in handling the patients to reduce the risks to infection. In addition, patient education is also an important task that nurses must perform in other conditions that require special diet.
It is the responsibility of nurses to ensure that the right diet is followed in feeding the patient. Nutritionist often work with nurses in ensuring that there is an effective follow-up program that will make enable them monitor how patients are progressing with a special diet and the problems their families face in providing the special diet.
From this analysis, it is worth noting that the role of nurses is wide and important in controlling and preventing HAIs both in hospital and in home-based care. Nurses must therefore be involved in all aspects of patient treatment and disease management, including during and after medical interventions, provision of education and guidelines as well as in developing programs to assess patient progress.
Burke, J. P. (2008). Infection control—a problem for patient safety. N Engl J Med, 348:651-6.
Goldrick, B. A. (2009). The practice of infection control and applied epidemiology: a historical perspective. Am J Infect Control 33(2), 493-500.
Weinstein, R. A., Siegel, J. D, & Brennan, P. J. (2005). Infection-control report cards—securing patient safety. N Engl J Med, 353(3), 225-7.