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Ensuring effective hygiene and infection control in care
Trish Smith is general manager at Red Roofs Residential Care Home, part of Red Homes Healthcare. Trish joined the home in 1988, moving through the ranks to her current position. Here Trish discusses the key elements of ensuring effective hygiene and infection control in a care setting.
As the manager of a busy care home it’s my job to make sure that my residents and staff are safe, which includes preventing and managing the outbreak of infection. This is a key element of safety in any care setting.
Being responsible for hygiene and infection control means ensuring that all staff, residents and families are aware of their responsibility in keeping our care home clean and safe as part of their everyday routine.
As with any care setting, regular contact with staff, family and friends means that infections are easily spread, so its important to eradicate any contamination from the outset and that any outbreaks are reported. It’s crucial this is properly managed and maintained as the repercussions can, in some cases, be life-threatening.
Education around infection control
First and foremost, education is key. Everyone involved giving care should know the basic standards for preventing and controlling infection. This involves being properly trained in hand sanitisation, using and disposing of sharps safely, and the role of personal protective equipment.
If my staff know how to keep those in our care safe and understand the risks surrounding infection, then we’re all on the same page. Education doesn’t stop with caregivers - with many relatives visiting their loved ones throughout the day, it’s important that they, too, are aware of the benefits of handwashing in keeping us all safe.
Washing our hands correctly is possibly the easiest way to avoid cross-contamination and all staff should be aware of the guidelines. These principles outline when hands should be cleansed, whether to use hand rub or liquid soap, as well as the three stages of an effective handwashing technique.
Personal protective equipment
Personal protective equipment (PPE) also plays a vital role in our daily practices. This includes equipment such as gloves, goggles, visors, aprons and masks, which should all be readily available for staff to access.
Staff should be trained to know when gloves are appropriate - as they should only be worn when necessary and are not a substitute for effective hygiene. It’s also important to use the correct type, depending on any allergies, or if working with high-risk substances. Similarly, aprons should also be worn only when necessary and disposed of once the task is completed.
To reduce the risk of harm, it’s crucial that sharps are used safely and are disposed of in line with workplace policies. It’s my job as a manager to ensure any treatment requiring the use of injection or venepuncture is carried out by trained staff, who are fully aware of the risks, including the spread of infection, exposure to viruses and injury.
Caregivers dealing with sharps should be aware of the guidelines surrounding sharps containers and the disposal of sharps following a procedure, as well as how to effectively deal with any injuries that may be incurred.
Education is again, key, in ensuring the correct disposal of waste. All carers and patients should be aware of the procedures involved in handling, storing and disposing of waste to keep contamination to an absolute minimum.
Colour-coded storage bags or containers, which are compliant with policy and legislation, should be used to segment healthcare waste immediately after it is produced. It must then be adequately labelled before transportation and disposal.
What to do in the event of an outbreak
If an outbreak of infection is to occur in a care setting, its important to recognise the symptoms swiftly to minimise the risk of other residents and staff becoming ill and to keep the occurrence under control.
Depending on the level of severity, an effective policy should be followed, which outlines the assessment, communication, management, organisation and investigation involved in any infection found within the home. We also have a responsibility to inform Public Health England once an outbreak of infection has been identified.
This is a not an exhaustive list of the procedures involved in maintaining a safe and clean environment for our residents and staff to live and work in. However, with the right policies and training in place we can empower ourselves with the confidence that those in our care are looked after safely and with dignity.