Preventing infection requires an understanding of the usual routes of transmission of the organism. The hospitalized patient may pose a contagious risk to others if the disease is easily spread or is spread through an airborne route. In these situations, strict adherence to isolation measures is very essential in reducing the opportunity for the spread of infection.
Preventing infection and transmission of organisms from patient to patient usually requires participation of the entire health care team. Transmission of organisms on the hands and gloves of health care workers remains the most common source of cross-infection in the hospital or clinical setting.
The nurse’s role in preventing infection transmission
Nurses serve an important role in the prevention of infection and its transmission in two general ways. First, as the health professionals who often spend the most time with patients, nurses have a greater opportunity for spreading harmful microorganisms. It is imperative that nurses should strictly adhere in the basic practices of medical asepsis and basic disinfection techniques before and after patient contact. Hands must be properly disinfected each time when there is patient contact.
The second way that nurses can significantly reduce hand-to-hand spread of microorganisms is to serve as active advocates of cleanliness and hygiene by always observing the basic principles of proper hand washing to patients, their family members and other health professionals. With the number of health care workers involved in patient care each day, there is a substantial opportunity for breaks in hand-hygiene technique. To the degree feasible, the nurse should observe the hand-hygiene activities of other members of the health professionals and discuss with them any lapses in technique that need to be corrected.
Health teachings about the infectious process and infection prevention
Preventing transmission and interruption of transmission basically requires diagnosis and patient compliance with the treatment regimen. The nurse’s role is to educate the patient and in some and appropriate situations, report the case to public health officials for contact tracing and verification of follow-up. The nurse must stress the significance of immunization to parents of young children and to others for whom vaccines are recommended such as the elderly, immunosuppressed individuals, those with chronic illnesses or disabilities. Infectious diseases often seem mysterious and frequently are socially stigmatizing, therefore patient teaching efforts require empathy, sensitivity and patience.
Controlling fever and accompanying discomforts during active infection
Fever must always be investigated to properly determine whether infection is the source of the accompanying clinical symptoms. Evidence indicates that fever, mediated by the hypothalamus, may potentiate beneficial functions in the syndrome of reactions known as the acute-phase reaction. Most fevers are physiologically controlled so that the temperature variation remains below 41 °C (105 °F). However, severe fever, as occurs with meningococcal meningitis may lead to heat stroke and other complications. Even milder fevers accompanied by fatigue, chills and diaphoresis are often uncomfortable for the patient. Whether fever is treated or untreated, adequate fluid intake is very
important especially during febrile episodes.
When an individual is diagnosed to be actively experiencing the signs and symptoms of an infection, it is crucial that the health care workers charged with the care of such individuals be mindful of the basic principles of infection prevention in order to limit the spread of infection from the patient to the health worker and to others confined within the health facility.