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Increasing Awareness not Illness with Infection Prevention Week at NHB

20 October 2023

From Douglas Stutz

The essential principles of Infection Prevention Week rest in everyone’s hands.Such handiwork was emphasized during October 15-21, 2023, at Naval Hospital Bremerton.“The goal of International Infection Prevention Week is to raise awareness for best practices to assist in reducing the risks to our patients, health care staff and others in the
The essential principles of Infection Prevention Week rest in everyone’s hands.

Such handiwork was emphasized during October 15-21, 2023, at Naval Hospital Bremerton.

“The goal of International Infection Prevention Week is to raise awareness for best practices to assist in reducing the risks to our patients, health care staff and others in the healthcare setting,” explained Elma Faye Miller, infection prevention and control nurse at Naval Hospital Bremerton. “There are numerous stakeholders impacted by the infection prevention including patients, family members, medical staff, providers, health care administrators, and our local communities.”

The focus this year was on five fundamentals of infection prevention - hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfection, vaccination, personal protective equipment, and injection safety - as identified by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

Infection prevention and control surveillance at NHB is conducted in several areas to help safeguard against such concerns as any potential outbreak; laboratory research for multidrug-resistant organisms and treatment of noted infections; hand hygiene compliance; environmental stewardship; disinfection practices for non-critical, semi-critical and critical health care equipment and supplies, and bloodborne pathogen/needlestick prevention.

Miller noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists healthcare associated infections as a definitive threat to patient safety and as such, infection prevention should be a top priority when providing care. Which is where the five focus areas come in play that Miller advocated with the following assessments:

For Hand Hygiene: “Know when it is to be expected to perform hand hygiene, follow the CDC guidance for how to perform hand hygiene and know the difference between when to use hand sanitizer or when to use soap and water,” stated Miller adding that hand hygiene is a simple, effective way to promote personal sanitizing and keep any potential infection at bay.

According to the CDC, hand hygiene, either washing or use of an alcohol based hand sanitizer, should take place between every patient contact. An alcohol based hand sanitizer should be used after covering a cough or sneeze, touching a common surface and before donning sterile gloves or any invasive procedure.

The CDC also recommends hand washing when hands are visibly or known to be contaminated such as after visiting the restroom or following removal of gloves if there was contact with blood or other infectious material or contaminated items. To get contaminated hands clean, it is recommended for a minimum of 10-15 seconds of brisk mechanical action with soap and warm running water. Whether you sanitize or wash, each method is very effective in decreasing the risk of cross contamination and spread of infection.

Cleaning & Disinfection: “Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use when cleaning and disinfecting equipment or the surfaces of your environment,” Miller said. “Get to know your contracted housekeeping staff and know the expectations for clinic staff as well as housekeeping staff when cleaning your environment. Complete regular inspections to check for dust, debris and potentially neglected areas.

Vaccination: “Ensure that all staff are up to date on all vaccinations and preventive care to ensure they have a healthy immune system to avoid contraction of preventable viral infections and are strong enough to care for patients in need,” cited Miller.

NHB recently provided the seasonal influenza inoculation to all command staff – which is mandatory for active duty, activated Reservists and healthcare workers – and is currently holding a mass flu shot exercise for all eligible beneficiaries for two more days of the week-long effort, on Friday October 20, from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. and Saturday, October 21, from 12 p.m. until 5 p.m., at NHB’s Health and Education Center, 2850 Thresher Ave, Naval Base Kitsap Bangor.

Personal Protective Equipment: “All staff should be educated and able to demonstrate the appropriate use and application of personal protective equipment in their spaces,” remarked Miller. “This education and training should be practiced enough to ensure the safe application and use of this PPE, when necessary, based on the task being completed.

From gown to gloves to goggles. From face shield to face mask. The donning and doffing of PPE are vital when caring for patients when confirmed or suspected of an infectious disease, such as COVID-19.

Injection Safety: “Take some time to explore the needles used in your environment. Make sure all needles have engineering controls to aid in the prevention of needles sticks. Be proactive in preparing for each procedure where venipuncture will occur by gathering supplies, equipment, and PPE prior to completing the task. Take a time-out prior to activity initiation to maintain continuity with departmental standard operating procedures,” advised Miller.

Smart injections practices, as defined by the CDC, include preparing for the injection using aseptic technique in a clean area free from contamination or contact with blood, body fluid or contaminated equipment; medication administration tubing and connectors are used for only one patient; and never administering medications from the same syringe to more than one patient.

The entire week was devoted to promoting Infection Prevention Week, from a static display on the quarterdeck to even the option to test one’s knowledge on the topic. Miller set up an Infection Prevention Self-Guided Jeopardy Game, with a Final Jeopardy possibility to challenge participants.

“You all have a hand in infection prevention,” added Miller.

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