Whether you are in the nursing profession or considering going into the field, you may be interested in learning more about what can help to protect nurses from infectious diseases. Given the fact that about 99,000 American patients die each year from health-care acquired infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the question of protection for nurses is a valid concern.
Nurses Can Be an At-Risk Population
As part of the front-line of health care practitioners, nurses can be at risk both for spreading or catching infectious disease, which is one reason taking precautions against infection is so important. The primary ways in which infectious diseases are transmitted are through contact (direct or indirect), droplets, or airborne transmission. Just to look at one of those examples, some infections, such an influenza, can be transmitted via droplets. This can occur when someone with an infection coughs or sneezes or in the midst of some medical procedures such as intubation or suctioning. It is immediately apparent that nurses and other health care professionals would be among those at a high risk for catching infections in this way, unless precautions are taken.
Following Policies and Procedures
Every hospital or other health care facility has an administrative and nursing leadership team that develops and implements policies regarding treatment of infectious patients. Nurses should take care to understand and follow these policies. Some things for hospitals and health care professionals to consider when dealing with infection control are the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), proper cleaning and disinfecting procedures, and learning how to identify and properly isolate infectious disease cases. Some measures will be more complex, while others, like proper hand-washing, may seem simple but are also actually quite important to maintain.
The wearing of protective equipment can be especially important when treating certain types of illnesses. The equipment may include gowns, masks, gloves, goggles or even respirators. Sometimes wearing certain types of protective equipment will be required. When it’s not, nurses must sometimes use their common sense to determine if they feel it would be helpful in a given health care situation to wear PPE. If a nurse is not sure about the proper protective gear, it would be a wise idea to consult a superior and the hospital’s policy manual. A manual will likely also help detail in what order protective equipment should be put on and the proper way to take it off and discard it.
Continuing Education Opportunities
Learning to protect oneself and one’s patients against the spread of an infection is an important enough part of a nurse’s job that continuing education is offered on just this topic. Nurses can take classes to learn how certain pathogens are transmitted, learn how to apply the appropriate infection control procedures in particular situations, and hopefully minimize the chance of disease spreading.
An important part the health care system, nurses are front-line workers whose care can be absolutely essential for the well-being of patients. Policies and procedures have been developed to help protect nurses from infectious diseases as well as to ensure the quality care of patients who suffer from such illnesses.