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New Rules to Tackle Spread of Hospital Germs

Patients who were admitted to hospitals hoping to get well often ended up getting sicker after picking up infections (eg. Staphylococcus aureus, Acinetobacter and Pseudomonas) during their stay. According to a 2000 Chicago Tribune investigation, there were more than 100,000 deaths in the year that were linked to infections that the patient contracted in hospitals.

We all know that hospitals are a place for sick people and for germs. At great risk are those with suppressed immune systems, the elderly, infants and those requiring surgery.

While most bacteria are harmless, studies have shown that hospital rooms are crawling with new drug-resistant germs. Despite even the best housekeeping practices, harmful germs can still linger on items in a hospital room including on bedrails, bedside tables, sheets, sinks, cart handles, nurse call buttons, and more.

As a result of some newer studies, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) has now released new recommended attire guidelines for doctors, nurses and health care workers to prevent the spread of dangerous germs to their patients.

The Chicago Tribune investigation revealed that 75 percent of all hospitals had been cited for sanitary violations. Think about this, in some cases, doctors and nurses wear their scrubs to work, then walk right into the operating room. The investigation also found that tens of thousands of lives could have been saved if doctors or nurses simply washed their hands.

Guidelines that SHEA recommends include:

* Bare below the elbows – wearing short sleeves, no wristwatch, no jewelry, and no neck ties during clinical practice.
* Facilities that mandate or strongly recommend use of a white coat for professional appearance should provide healthcare professionals with two (2) or more white coats and provide convenient and economical means to launder and also provide coat hooks so they can hang coat prior to contact with client.
* Laundering – Optimally, any apparel (ex. white coats) worn at the bedside that comes into contact with the patient or patient environment should be laundered after daily use and no less than once a week. If home washing, must wash in hot water and bleach.
* Footwear – All footwear should have closed toes, low heels, and nonskid soles.
* No guidance can be offered in general regarding prohibiting items like lanyards, identification tags and sleeves, cell phones, pagers, and jewelry, but those items that come into direct contact with the patient or environment should be disinfected, replaced, or eliminated.

To reduce your risk and exposure to hospital room germs here are a couple of tips:

* Use antiseptic foam stations.
* Avoid touching your face – eyes, mouth or nose.
* Watch your doctor or nurse – do they wash their hands before touching you and again after touching a contaminated object (ex. your medical chart) – if no, you should speak up.
* Check your hospital out. Investigate and check safety reports. Go to the hospital and look around – is it clean or dirty?
* Learn and know the signs of infections.

Sadly, many people have suffered from careless medical treatment by negligent doctors, nurses and healthcare providers resulting in serious injury and even death. While we often entrust our health or the well-being of ourselves or our family members, it is important to take an active role in our health and safety to prevent or reduce the risk of medical negligence.