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Modern healthcare has tremendously improved the quality and length of life of people worldwide, across nearly every country and culture. However, even in this modern environment, infection while receiving healthcare can be a major concern. Infection control and prevention, or IPC, plays a critical role in the success of healthcare initiatives and the ability of providers to offer their patients quality care.

Training in IPC can help providers improve the health of their patients and protect them throughout the duration of their treatment. Here is what you should know about IPC and its role in healthcare across different situations and disciplines.

What Is Infection Control?

We will begin by exploring what infection control and prevention are. IPC uses best practices to reduce the risk of infections and prevent infections from spreading within the healthcare environment. Providers want to avoid infections in the patients they see, as well as keep infections from spreading among patients or even to healthcare providers.

Professionals can take steps to minimize the risks associated with infections in healthcare and reduce the spread of epidemics and pandemics.

Note that IPC matters across all healthcare settings, from hospitals and other inpatient settings to standard outpatient doctor offices, imaging centers, and rehabilitation centers. Even healthcare settings that do not deal directly with treatment, such as pharmacies, must pay attention to IPC best practices.

The guidelines of IPC instruct providers to take steps to prevent the spread of disease, such as providing training, practicing hygiene, disinfecting spaces, and using personal protective equipment. We will now break down the role of infection prevention in different environments.

Infection Prevention and Control in Communities

Infection prevention and control must be prioritized within local communities. When people understand the basic steps they can take to reduce the spread of disease within their communities, they can keep themselves and their neighbors safer.

When looking at infection prevention in communities, it is important to begin by identifying at-risk groups, which generally include children and the elderly, as well as anyone with a weaker immune system. Education efforts throughout the community will often focus on habits and practices that can be easily integrated, such as regularly washing hands, following the recommended immunization schedules, and taking medicines as prescribed.

Communities striving to reduce the spread of infection can also encourage policies such as food safety regulations and air quality standards to improve the overall health of local inhabitants.

Infection Prevention and Control Within the Healthcare Setting

When looking at IPC in a healthcare setting, the higher risks of disease spread in vulnerable environments is of particular note. Those receiving healthcare are often more susceptible to disease due to poor health or other circumstances that brought them to the healthcare provider to begin with. With a high concentration of people with diseases in a single area, the risk of spread is also further amplified.

Fortunately, when IPC best practices are used properly, it reduces infections spread through healthcare situations by at least 30%.

Control in this type of situation needs to focus on the environment, especially situations where pathogens can survive, such as surfaces and medical instruments. For example, those without strong immune systems or those who need surgery will need to receive optimal care to avoid the transmission of infectious agents.

Professionals must also be attentive to the different modes of disease transmission. For example, some pathogens spread through skin-to-skin contact, while others spread by blood and cross-contamination with medical instruments.

Global Infection Prevention and Control Initiatives

Those who study IPC also note the importance of controlling the spread of disease on a global scale. Initiatives have been developed in the medical community to help various countries, including low-income nations, improve their infection interventions and the healthcare they can provide their local populations.

To effectively embrace the potential for reducing the spread of infectious agents, each country will need to create its own IPC protocols. These protocols will be influenced by factors such as local stability and infection threats. For example, in areas facing tremendous turmoil, such as following a disaster or a conflict, unsanitary conditions can present tremendous difficulties. A lack of clean water can also hamper medical care. Threats like wound infection will need to be prioritized.

What Are the Core Components of Effective Infection Prevention and Control?

As the World Health Organization (WHO) looked at the importance of infection prevention and control, they recognized that each nation would need to create its own standardized IPC guidelines for local healthcare facilities. They set about identifying eight core components that countries should incorporate into their planning to optimize infection prevention and control success rates:

  1. Having an IPC program. Each country needs to have an IPC program with the support and buy-in of dedicated, appropriately trained staff.
  2. Have and enact the appropriate guidelines. The country will also need to have concrete standards that all facilities can be expected to follow.
  3. Offer education and training. Healthcare facilities in the country will also need to have education and training concerning best practices for healthcare workers.
  4. Active healthcare facility surveillance. The nation’s protocols should also include a plan to monitor healthcare practices and outcomes at both the national and facility level to see how things are working.
  5. Multimodal strategies. The plan should also include multimodal strategies to ensure that patients receive the appropriate care. This includes having strategies in place to communicate with providers.
  6. Regular monitoring. The guidelines should also include regular monitoring of healthcare facilities according to the national guidelines.
  7. Reasonable occupancy and staffing. Facilities cannot overlook the importance of minimizing overcrowding threats in healthcare facilities and ensuring providers maintain adequate staffing levels.
  8. Maintain the environment. Preventing infection guidelines must include standards for maintaining cleanliness and good hygiene in the healthcare environment.

Standard Precautions

To help healthcare facilities meet the guidelines outlined in these eight core components, there are some precautions and strategies that healthcare providers will want to enact to keep a clean and quality healthcare environment in most standard healthcare facilities. Here are some of the best practices that healthcare providers should consider in these circumstances.

  • Clean hands and sterilization procedures. These steps help to prevent cross-contamination between patients and between providers and patients. This includes washing hands, ensuring that equipment used in patient care is properly disinfected, and ensuring that any textiles used for patients are properly sanitized before being used by another patient.
  • Maintaining personal protection for providers. Providers will also need to watch their own safety and hygiene through the use of personal protective equipment, following any guidelines for coughs and care when a patient is projecting aerosols, and making sure providers follow any care for post-exposure.
  • Care during procedures. This care also explores guidelines that should be followed when treating patients, such as injection best practices, and following practices to prevent infections originating from interventions– such as a catheter infection.
  • Maintaining open and clear communication among healthcare providers. Those involved in patient care with a contagious patient will also need to keep communication clear to ensure that all IPC best practices have been followed.

Transmission-Based Precautions

The transmission-based precautions are specifically designed to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in healthcare environments with ill patients. These precautions look at how to prevent the transmission of diseases that spread through contact, droplets, and the air.

When looking at transmission-based precautions, providers must recognize the various guidelines that must be followed based on the type of infectious disease and the best practices for that particular condition. For example, certain ailments will call for providers to isolate patients and use full PPE to prevent accidental transmission. For other ailments, gloves and a face mask may be the recommended best practice.

Transmission prevention also does not end when the patient leaves the healthcare facility. Professionals will also need to follow best practices regarding the environment where the patient was and how that space can be appropriately cleaned so that future patients can safely be treated there.

For example, when patients leave a room where they had been held in isolation, that room should not be cleaned or used for at least an hour, and the door to the room should remain closed to prevent the spread of pathogens. During the room cleaning, the professional should then use the appropriate protective equipment and disinfectant and make sure that any high-touch areas receive particularly close attention.

Infection Prevention and Control Roles and Responsibilities

For infection prevention and control to be properly implemented, it is important for everyone involved in healthcare to understand the roles and responsibilities associated with each part of these practices. This includes the following:

Leadership and Support

Those in charge of managing the healthcare facility need to understand the critical nature of the IPC best practices and support the implementation of these measures. They should offer concrete support to these guidelines and not take risky actions such as overcrowding a hospital or overworking professionals. They should also ensure that healthcare staff has access to the materials they need to enact the best practices.

Healthcare Providers and Support

Those directly providing care to patients should have access to educational training about the importance of infection control and the steps they can take to improve the care they offer their patients. The training should reflect the needs of these care providers and ensure that everyone involved understands what needs to be done and why.

Patients and Families

Those coming to the healthcare facility to receive care should receive information and education about preventing infections. They should also learn what steps to take if they see common signs of infections.

Those involved in running the healthcare facility should regularly use monitoring to gauge the success of their infection prevention practices. They should examine how well their guidelines are followed and the overall success rate of their treatment. Finding areas to improve can help keep everyone safer. You can learn more about the CDC recommendations for implementing the eight core components here.

Training in Infection Prevention and Control

Furthering your education by studying IPC could be the next step for medical professionals like nurses. A master’s in infection control could equip healthcare professionals with the education they need to help reduce the spread of disease in healthcare settings.

When you study with Post, you can complete this degree in less than 24 months, with the courses offered 100% online. This makes it more convenient for students to pursue educational opportunities independently on their own schedule.

If you pursue this degree, you will cover the science and methodology behind infection prevention in-depth.  The program will include instruction in the following relevant areas within the field:

  • Understanding how epidemiology relates to environmental risk assessment
  • Creating surveillance programs for disease and infection
  • Interpreting data related to infection rates and control
  • Taking on advanced nursing practice and  how to serve as both a leader and collaborator within healthcare
  • Taking this new insight into infection control and  applying it to the greater society, both on a local and global scale

Nurses know how critical infection prevention is to patient health and care.  This master’s degree provides students with the education they  could use to pursue leadership roles within healthcare settings, improve the care they offer, or transition to the research or administrative roles of nursing and work to improve patient care more broadly. If you want to take concrete steps to reduce preventable means of patient infection, this program contains the instruction you could apply to prevent patient infection..

If you are ready to get started with your Master of Science Nursing – Infection Prevention and Control Specialization or Graduate Certificate in Infection Prevention and Control, contact Post University. Start working towards your dream career today.

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