Regardless of the corporate industry, the property type the business operates in or the individual’s employed within the organisation, the ability to maintain both personal and environmental hygiene is imperative. However, when relating to specifically the medical industry, minimising the risk of bacteria, germs and infection becomes vitally important to guarantee the health of patients. Healthcare institutions provide care, cures and support to an array of patients suffering from a number of different conditions. A lack of hygiene on even a single account could prove to have potentially fatal consequences meaning meticulous germ, bacteria and infection control becomes of the highest priority.
With this in mind, we have devised a full guide to highlight the importance of personal and environmental hygiene specifically to those operating in the medical industry.
Importance Of Personal And Environmental Hygiene
When working in a healthcare setting, regardless of an individual’s role, every team member is responsible for maintaining not only exceptional personal hygiene but also the cleanliness of their surroundings. A lack of germ, bacteria and infection control can have a detrimental impact on the health of patients. Patients that have been hospitalised have a considerably weaker immune system, and often, the conventional antibiotics being used to treat individuals are resistant to a large percentage of infectious conditions. Due to this, it is critical to implement hygiene processes that enable all areas of the premises to meet the highest level of health and safety standards. NHS England has a full guide to the latest Health and Safety Policy for medical organisations.
Essential Hygiene In Hospitals:
According to an article by Initial, 80% of viruses are transmissible via touch which means that it takes as little as one individual failing to sanitise their hands or decontaminate equipment for the bacteria to spread. There are two different types of cleaning when dealing with a healthcare facility; these are called proactive and reactive cleaning tasks. Proactive cleaning includes routine tasks such as the disinfection of shared contact points, whereas reactive cleaning relates to tasks that are completed as and when they are necessary. It is of paramount importance for a strict cleaning routine including both daily and weekly tasks is implemented to reduce the risk of a breakout of infections, including the following procedures:
All walls, flooring and ceilings within the hospital must be professionally sprayed using a hygiene coating. Hygiene coatings can be used not only on surfaces in wards but also in publicly used areas such as showers, toilets and waiting areas. The application of hygiene coatings couldn’t be more straightforward thanks to their rapid drying time. The process can be completed when wards are at their quietest, causing little disruption.
Hygiene coatings are made using a water-based substance, allowing the finish to be seamless on any material from plaster and brickwork to concrete and tiling. The finish will be entirely non-porous meaning that there will be no pores, cracks or chips for bacteria to harbour in. Regardless of the type of germ that comes into contact with the surface, it will not grow, spread or contaminate any other material. Opting to spray the entire hospital with a layer of hygiene coating prove to be one of the most critical tasks to reassure the safety of patients, visitors and healthcare professionals.
If you have visited a hospital, doctor’s surgery or any other medical practice in the past ten years; it is almost a given that you would have spotted a number of hand sanitising systems placed strategically around the building. Hand disinfecting is imperative in preventing infections. Every patient is at immense risk of infection when being treated, regardless of the severity of their condition. Due to this, healthcare organisations must ensure that they have implemented sanitising systems across their premises.
Alcohol-based hand sanitiser is the most effective in killing harmful bacteria while promoting the regrowth of positive germs in your skin. To maximise sanitation, we strongly suggest opting for an automatic dispenser equipped with sensors that pick up the movement of hands; this prevents the system itself from becoming contaminated. All equipment required for effective hand sanitising can be purchased from FirstAid.co.uk.
Patients, along with visitors must be encouraged to sanitise their hands after touching beds, rails, bedside tables, doors and phone, along with before eating and most definitely after using the toilet. Healthcare professionals, on the other hand, must ensure that their hands are free from bacteria after every patient contact – it takes as little as 20 seconds but could save a life!
Distance Between Beds
Particularly when there are several patients sharing one ward at once, the prevention of infection becomes of the highest priority. Beds must be separated by a suitable distance not only to ensure that each patient can have their own privacy but also to limit the transfer of germs between individuals. It is also vital to ensure that those that are suffering from contagious illnesses such as cholera are isolated away from other patients in their own room.
Disposing of Medical Waste
When working in a hospital environment, there are two different types of waste that you may come across. It is vitally important to understand the difference between the two to ensure that waste is appropriately separated.
Medical waste relates to anything that includes sharp objects, human tissue, liquid bodily fluids and laboratory specimens. General waste, on the other hand, contains materials that have had minimal contact with body substances; the two cannot be crossed over. When handling either form of waste, it is imperative that personal protective equipment is worn at all times; this will prevent exposure to potentially contaminated substances.
While touch is one of the biggest culprits for the spreading of bacteria, hospitals must also take into consideration the risk of airborne contamination. Airborne contaminants can not only be exposed to the body through inhalation but also through the skin, meaning that adequate ventilation is essential.
Ventilation falls into the category of air quality and temperature control. Depending on the department of the hospital, these may differ to suit the requirements of patients. For example, the temperature will be slightly higher in the maternity ward to keep newborns warm. Regardless of the area of the hospital, adequate ventilation remains vital to reduce germs from harbouring.
Change Bed Linen
It is vital to highlight that all used bed linen is immediately regarded as contaminated. Due to this, regardless of the condition of the patient, handling of used linen must be kept at a minimum.
While changing bed linen, individuals must wear appropriate personal protective equipment to avoid microorganisms spreading onto staff clothing and the surrounding environment. Used linen, once removed, must be placed into a linen container and then disposed of. Any linen that is heavily contaminated with fluids such as blood must first be placed into a secure leak-proof bag and then placed into the linen bin. Always ensure that hands have been thoroughly sanitised after handling used bed linen, even if protective gloves have been worn.
Spillages within a hospital are often inevitable meaning that thorough processes must be put in place to achieve effective spill management. Regardless of the spillage type, all liquids must be removed as quickly as possible, and the entire area must be disinfected. The spillage type will depict the type of disinfectant required. Small spillages are the easiest to manage and can be cleaned quickly through wiping up the substance and then sanitised using a combination of warm water and detergent. Large spillages, on the other hand, particularly those that involve bodily fluids must be removed using a chlorine-based disinfectant. Again, personal protective equipment must be used when cleaning spillages.
Cleanliness of Water Systems
Legionella is a harmful bacteria that can most commonly be found in water and causes two types of illnesses. The first of which is Legionellosis, which involves symptoms similar to pneumonia and the second is Pontiac fever that for many, feel as if they are suffering from mild flu. While Legionella cannot be completely removed from water systems, it must be adequately controlled to prevent risking illness in patients with a low immune system.
Based on information by HSE, to achieve successful Legionella control, a full risk assessment must be regularly carried out on both hot and cold water systems. During the assessment, each system will be checked, inspected and then cleaned based on specific guidelines. One of the best ways to prevent the growth of Legionella is through temperature control; this will be checked as part of the risk assessment. Hot water systems must store water at 60°C or above, and cold water systems must be 20°C or lower.
Personal Hygiene of Healthcare Professionals
As a healthcare professional, personal hygiene is a necessity. Taking care of personal hygiene helps towards building a healthy environment for patients. While bathing or showering before every shift is imperative, aim to avoid using products that are heavily scented as it may trigger an allergic reaction when treating patients. After your shift, regardless of whether your uniform is dirty or not, ensure that they are washed immediately to avoid the spreading of germs and bacteria. The Salter School has put together an article, including useful tips for cleanliness as a healthcare worker.
Maintain Utmost Cleanliness and Hygiene!
Any individual that steps inside a hospital, whether this may be a healthcare professional, patient or visitor is responsible for contributing towards hygiene control. Maintaining the highest level of cleanliness is imperative in preventing the spreading of germs, bacteria and infections.