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Why Healthcare Workers Must Follow Universal Precautions

By Liz Ryan via Multibriefs

Before we start to discuss this topic, let's understand that basic precautions are meant to reduce the risk of transmission of blood-borne and other pathogens from different sources (microorganisms that are present in human blood and can cause disease in humans). They are the basic level of infection control precautions that are to be used while taking care of patients.

Some of these infections can be transmitted through contact with blood and body fluids. The list of possible infections goes on and on — from HIV and Hepatitis A, B, C up to malaria and herpes.

That's why it is so important to use and stick to universal precautions. This approach helps to control infection and treat all human blood and certain human body fluids as if they were known to be infectious with different diseases. Safety is never enough — especially in healthcare.

And that is the main reason why you see a lot of labels close to sinks, toilets and other places in hospitals. Hand hygiene is the number one precaution. Number one. It's simple, but one of the most effective methods to prevent transmissions of pathogens.

If all hospitals would stick to these precautions, it would reduce unnecessary risks. Moreover, hospital managers and staff in charge should promote safety regulations to improve their workplace and avoid health risks. Adequate staff and supplies, together with leadership and education of health workers, patients and visitors should be the first priority.

Let's look at five basic but crucial elements for universal precautions:

1. Waste disposal: Ensure safe waste management. Human tissues, as well as laboratory waste should be treated as clinical waste.

2. Respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette: Place visual alerts at the entrance to healthcare facilities, and practice respiratory hygiene etiquette. Febrile respiratory patients should be placed at least 3 feet away in waiting areas from others.

3. Patient care equipment: Disinfect and reprocess reusable equipment appropriately before use with another patient. Equipment dirty with blood and other body fluids should be handled in a manner that prevents skin exposures.

4. Hands, hands, hands: Wash them before and after patient contact and between patients, even if you are wearing gloves. Also, be sure to wash hands after being in contact with blood and other body fluids.

5. Facial protection: Wear a procedure or surgical mask and eye protection, like goggles or eye visor. A face shield will help and protect mucous membranes of your eyes, nose and mouth.

You may smile and think the above mentioned is self-evident, and it is. But statistics shows a lot of hospitals lack these procedures that guarantee a clean and disinfected workplace.

These precautions were designed for all types of healthcare workers — nurses, hospital administrators, support workers, doctors and even patients. Let's put it in this way: How can you help a patient to get well and give him a proper treatment if you have dirty hands or you forgot to clean equipment in your office? It doesn't make sense.

Safety is never too important. Employers and managers in the hospital should be responsible and ensure universal precautions are being used. And if your employer doesn't think this is important, then you should.

Liz Ryan is a content marketing manager at HealthcareAdministrator.org. She is a writer and a language tutor with 15 years of experience. She writes for the Huffington Post, Business Week, LinkedIn, the Harvard Business Review, the Denver Post, Forbes.com and many more top-rated websites.

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