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REFLECTIONS ON PRACTICE: Simple precautions by all will prevent infection

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I DO not imagine a month goes by without the horrors of a healthcare-associated infection being highlighted by the media as well as local government to scaremonger and acquire new readers and voters. And the burden is typically placed at the feet of the nurses or hospital cleaners regarding ward cleanliness, hand hygiene and uniforms.

I DO not imagine a month goes by without the horrors of a healthcare-associated infection being highlighted by the media as well as local government to scaremonger and acquire new readers and voters. And the burden is typically placed at the feet of the nurses or hospital cleaners regarding ward cleanliness, hand hygiene and uniforms.

This has a potent impact on patients and their relatives, resulting in patients being apprehensive and fearful of the prospect of having procedures performed in hospital because of the huge perceived risk of them acquiring an HCAI.

These anxieties and fears are natural and understandable reactions to uninformed media. Its prevailing influence always leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth, as it never appears to furnish the full facts regarding how HCAIs, most notably MRSA and Clostridium difficile, are transmitted or the actual risks of contracting a particular infection.

The media also neglects to say that the onus to actively reduce the risk of such infections should rest not only with healthcare professionals and other trust staff but also with the patients themselves and the relatives who visit them.

All hospital staff are well aware of their local trust’s and government agencies’ guidelines and policies on how to actively reduce the risk of HCAIs, with emphasis on standard precautions as well as personal and ward cleanliness.

Also there are well-publicised campaigns via the trusts and National Patient Safety Agency to ensure everyone washes their hands thoroughly before and after visiting any ward. Nurses also politely inform relatives – and sometimes doctors – of the need not to sit on patients’ beds.

These are effective, essential and simple preventable measures to combat and reduce the transmission of infection. However, on the many shifts I have attended on clinical placement, there are still relatives and even staff who neglect to meet these basic requirements.

I realise there may be times where relatives and staff go to clean their hands and cannot do so because items are out of stock. They should be able to approach and inform any of the ward staff about this so it can be promptly rectified and so they can be redirected to other facilities where they can clean their hands.

Patients also perform a vital empowering role in the prevention of HCAIs as, from my experience, they not only inform hospital staff but their own relatives of the requirement for them to wash their hands.

If everyone works in partnership, and takes responsibility for basic hygiene requirements of washing their hands and other simple precautions, then the HCAI threat will diminish.

Tracy Rooney is a third-year nursing student at the University of Central England, Birmingham

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