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Make Hand Hygiene a Successful Wash for Infection Prevention

Image of Naval Hospital Bremerton staff are ensuring co-workers, along with patients and visitors are aware of infectious communicable threats and understand how to protect themselves and others . In conjunction with International Infection Prevention Week, October 17-23, Naval Hospital Bremerton staff are ensuring co-workers, along with patients and visitors understand how to protect themselves and others from infectious communicable threats.

From bedside to bathroom, desktop to doorknob, cell phone to computer keyboard, there’s nothing quite like a good wash.

Especially in a hospital setting where eliminating germs, bacteria and viruses is crucial.

In conjunction with International Infection Prevention Week, October 17-23, 2021, Naval Hospital Bremerton staff are ensuring co-workers, along with patients and visitors are aware of such infectious, communicable threats and understand how to protect themselves and others.

Helping to lead that effort at NHB is Infection Prevention Nurse, Elma Faye Miller.

“I am responsible for supporting our command in efforts to prevent and control the spread of infections by following trends, reviewing policy and procedures for best practices, and for providing education and recommendations to help improved our mission which is to ‘keep our warfighters and their families ready, healthy, and on the job,’” explained Miller, who has a history of applying practices and procedures to minimize the risk of infection. As an Army Reserve medic attending a medic-training course in Massachusetts she received unexpected recognition with a Aseptic Technique Medic Award.

“It was given as a joke, because even in practice for starting an IV or drawing blood, my approach was always to provide infection prevention measures, even on the battlefield. I was vocal about it with other soldiers in my course. Infection prevention should be the first step for any procedure performed in a health care environment,” Miller said.

A few facts on why there is an International Infection Prevention Week:

The average office desk has 400 times more bacteria than a toilet handle

Mobile phones have 18 times more bacteria than someone’s toilet

Eighty percent of all infectious diseases are transmitted by touch

This year’s theme for International Infection Prevention Week is ‘Make Your Intention Infection Prevention’ and there are several steps which everyone can do to help stop the spread of germs at home, at work and in the community, such as:

  • Avoid close contact with others at risk
  • Cover coughs and sneezes into an elbow, or with a tissue, then throw it away, clean hands afterwards
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, especially after coughing and sneezing
  • Clean and disinfect frequently used objects and surfaces such as cellphones and desktops
  • Wear facemasks and stay six feet from others when possible
  • After using handrail/banister wash/sanitize hands
  • Stay home if ill, except to get medical care
  • Most importantly, wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer often, for at least 20 seconds

Miller noted that frequent handwashing and hand-sanitizing can help reduce the spread of a multitude of infections, including healthcare acquired infections such as surgical site or wound infections; catheter associated urinary tract infections, and blood stream infections.

As an example, staff have the duty to always clean hands before and after providing care, and to educate their patients to also do the same.

Yet despite widespread knowledge of the importance of handwashing and hand-sanitizing, a pre-pandemic study showed that only 31% of men and 65% of women washed their hands.

“Hand hygiene is not the only measure to take in the reduction of infection transmission. Healthcare staff and patients need to be aware of cough etiquette and preventative cares that can also help prevent others from becoming ill. Preventative care includes receiving vaccinations as they are recommended by community, state and federal health agencies as a vital step in preventing infections. Immunizations are a huge milestone in our healthcare history that allow us to thrive rather than ravage in pandemics and sicknesses such as rubella, hepatitis, varicella, just to name a few,” said Miller.

For the past 20 months, the global population has struggled trying to control a highly infectious pandemic, as well as routinely grapple with other contagious illnesses such as measles and mumps outbreaks and influenza season.

Miller affirms that infection prevention awareness is still not universal, but there is hope.

“I have spoken with many and my very own family. This pandemic has a political undertone that makes it difficult to clearly assess the true understanding that our population has developed. My heart has been broken by loss and suffering. Whether believed or not, this pandemic has proved that our society can defeat COVID-19,” Miller stated. “However, we are social animals. It is very difficult to keep us from wanting to participate in communal activities. We now have vaccinations to help our bodies to build immunity against COVID-19. Even with this, it seems to have been hard convincing some that this is the best measure to reduce the spread of infection, slow hospital admissions, and decrease the risk of death. Awareness remains to be seen.”

NHB staff will continue to take the lead to ensure that all patients are handled before, after and even during with proper infection prevention measures like hand hygiene.

One wash at a time.

Last Updated: July 11, 2023
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