Patients and their families play an important role in infection prevention. Take time to educate them on the infection prevention basics and help them to feel comfortable asking questions and voicing concerns to healthcare professionals in your facility.
Your patients should:
- Be aware of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). HAIs are infections that patients can get in a healthcare facility while receiving medical care. These infections are often preventable. No matter where a patient is—a hospital, a long-term care facility, outpatient surgery center, dialysis center, doctor’s office—they are at risk for infections.
- Feel empowered to speak up for their care. Remind your patients that they should never feel shy or reluctant to ask for more information. After all, the doctors, nurses, and other members of their care team want them to have a voice in their care.
- Know to clean their hands often. Hand hygiene is the most important way to help prevent infection! Tell your patients that it is okay to ask healthcare workers and visitors to clean their hands if they don’t see them do it.
- Understand the basics of safe injection practices. Teach your patients to recognize unsafe injection practices – and to speak up if they have a concern. Remember: one needle, one syringe, one time.
- Know to monitor the cleanliness of their area. Keeping the patient’s environment and equipment clean is extremely important – especially frequently touched items. Germs on a bedrail, call bell, or keyboard could infect patients, if not properly cleaned.
- Be prepared to ask questions about their medications. Patients need to understand what medicines they are taking, and why – especially if antibiotics are being prescribed. Taking antibiotics the wrong way can promote antibiotic resistance. It’s essential that your patients know what their medicines are for, how to take them, and how long they should take them.
- Know how to practice good post-surgical care. Preventing infections after surgery is essential. Teach your patients how to care for their wound after leaving the healthcare facility and to verify that any person that inspects their wounds or changes their dressings uses appropriate hand hygiene. Patients need to understand the importance of their own hand hygiene, as well.
- Understand how to care for their devices. Advise your patients to ask if their device (catheter, etc.) is necessary. If your patient is sent home with a device, teach them how to care for it so they don’t develop an infection.
- Have a plan to stay up to date with their vaccinations. The majority of Americans who die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases are adults. Help your patients get the shots they need to stay healthy. Vaccines can prevent the suffering and costs (including time lost from work) associated with the flu, pneumonia, human papillomavirus (HPV), and hepatitis B.
- Know that they can always ask to speak with an infection preventionist (IP). IPs make sure healthcare workers and patients are doing all the things they should to prevent infections, and there’s one on staff at every health system. IPs are nurses, epidemiologists, public health professionals, microbiologists, doctors, or other health professionals who work to prevent germs from spreading within healthcare facilities.
Remember, by educating your patients, you can help stop the spread of infection!
- It takes a team infographic—from the AHRQ Safety Program for Ambulatory Surgery (funded by AHRQ, developed by APIC and HRET)
- Who are infection preventionists?—APIC Consumer Alert
- What are healthcare-associated infections?—APIC Consumer Alert
- Download and share APIC’s free patient safety infographics