Infection Control Nurses Have a Responsibility to Educate Patients and Staff
Infection control nurses play a critical role in the prevention and management of healthcare-associated infections. Typically, these nurses work within hospitals and in other healthcare settings to implement infection control policies, provide relevant training to healthcare personnel, and encourage best practices to minimize the spread of infection.
Whether you aspire to work as an infection control nurse or are preparing to enter the field, one of your most significant responsibilities is educating patients and staff in infection control practices. This is a job that is often easier said than done, but there are some tips and strategies you can follow to optimize your outcomes.
The Importance of Infection Control in Healthcare Settings
Both healthcare workers and patients are prone to the spread of infection in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other healthcare settings. All it takes is one patient or one healthcare worker to be exposed to create a ripple effect where the infection or disease spreads throughout an entire facility. With the proper infection control practices in place, it is possible to minimize or even stop the spread.
The Role of Infection Control Nurses
Many hospitals and other large healthcare facilities hire infection control nurses specifically for the purpose of educating healthcare workers and patients on the proper protocols for infection control. Typically, these professionals are registered nurses (RNs) who keep track of relevant infection data, develop action plans, and implement programs to mitigate the spread of disease. In some cases, these nurses may also provide direct treatment to patients with infectious diseases, though this can vary from one facility to the next.
Understanding the Basics of Infection Control
If you are considering a career as an infection control nurse, it is imperative that you understand the basics of this type of work.
Definition and Goals of Infection Control
Infection control refers to the prevention of infection spread in a healthcare setting (such as a hospital or other healthcare facility). Having an infection control plan in place means that a facility has established specific principles, practices, and procedures to handle infectious diseases so that spread can be minimized or stopped.
Key Principles and Practices
There are a few key principles and practices to consider when it comes to infection control inside a healthcare facility. The most critical component of effective infection control is to have a dedicated program in place where everyone is trained and on the same page regarding infection control best practices. This includes:
- Providing regular and consistent education and training to healthcare employees and patients, where applicable.
- Implementing multimodal strategies to improve patient care in hospitals and other facilities.
- Regularly monitoring facilities for reasonable occupancy and staffing, as well as compliance with state or national guidelines.
- Maintaining a clean and hygienic environment throughout the facility.
The Importance of Compliance With Infection Control Protocols
Infection control protocols refer to the specific practices healthcare workers and patients are expected to follow to minimize the spread of infectious disease. Complying with these established protocols is vital because all it takes is one person ignoring infection control protocol to spread an infection to someone else (whether another patient or another healthcare worker).
Effective Communication Strategies
Infection control training is essential to prevent the spread of disease in hospitals and other medical facilities. Infection control nurses can make training more accessible by following some communication best practices when working with healthcare professionals and patients alike.
Be Clear and Concise
A long and drawn-out training session may thoroughly cover many infection control topics, but it is unlikely to keep the attention of your audience. Your message will be better retained when you stick to shorter and more concise training sessions, so keep this in mind as you plan your infection control training.
Tailor Messages for Different Audiences
Different audiences will respond better to different types of presentations. Your infection control training for nurses should not be the same as your infection control training for patients. Tailor your messages to each audience so that the content is relevant and memorable.
Use Visual Aids
Visuals can make a huge difference in how well your audience remembers the information presented to them. Incorporate diagrams, illustrations, and even videos and animations that demonstrate infection control best practices into your training whenever possible and appropriate.
Incorporate Cultural Sensitivity
When putting together training presentations for infection control, it is vital to consider cultural differences between members of your target audience. Being sensitive to these differences can ensure that everyone feels comfortable and receives a quality training experience.
Engaging Patients in Infection Control
Infection control nurses are integral to educating and engaging patients while they are in the hospital or another healthcare setting. There are a few things to keep in mind that can help patients stay better engaged when learning about infection control protocols.
Educate Patients About Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette
Infection control nurses should take the time to properly educate patients on hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette rather than assuming patients already know this information. This includes providing education on proper hand-washing techniques and ways to minimize the spread of pathogens when patients cough or sneeze (such as by sneezing and coughing into the elbow).
Explain the Importance of Vaccines and Proper Immunization
Some infectious diseases can be prevented with vaccination. Patients may not even realize that they are eligible for immunization—or they may have some misunderstandings about vaccinations and their benefits. Infection control nurses should explain the importance of proper immunization to patients and provide additional resources regarding their safety and efficacy.
Promote Awareness of Common Healthcare-Associated Infections
Infection control nurses should provide specialized training to other nurses and healthcare professionals on some of the most common healthcare-associated infections and how to prevent them. Some common infections to cover (according to the CDC) include:
- Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP)
- Surgical site infection (SSI)
- Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI)
Encourage Patients to Ask Clarifying Questions
Infection control nurses should never assume that a patient understands the information they have provided. Instead, these professionals should go out of their way to encourage patients to ask questions or seek clarification if anything they have covered is unclear.
Training and Education for Staff
Infection control nurses are responsible for providing education not just to patients but other healthcare workers and staff as well. Here are some tips to keep in mind when it comes to training staff members on infection control best practices.
Conduct Regular Training Sessions
Consistent and regularly scheduled training is crucial. Make sure that every healthcare worker in the facility has access to infection control training at least once per year and that there is a process in place for ensuring that new hires receive this training before they begin working with patients.
Provide Updated Information
Infection control protocols and best practices are constantly changing and evolving. With this in mind, it is important for infection control nurses to stay up to date on the latest information so that they can provide the best quality training.
Ensure Staff Compliance With Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
One of the best defenses against the spread of infectious disease among healthcare workers is the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Make sure that staff are trained in the proper use of PPE and that they are using it at all times during their shifts.
Emphasize the Importance of Reporting Incidents
Nurses and other healthcare staff should also be trained in the importance of reporting incidents, such as potential exposures to infectious diseases and breaches of PPE protocol, to the appropriate people. To encourage reporting, anonymous incident reporting should be available to staff whenever possible.
Implementing Effective Prevention Strategies
You have probably heard the saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is especially true in the world of infectious disease control. Fortunately, there are some great prevention strategies that can help to reduce the spread of infectious disease in healthcare settings.
Promote Environmental Hygiene and Proper Disinfection Practices
The right cleaning and disinfection practices can go a long way toward getting rid of germs and bacteria that could otherwise cause disease. All healthcare staff should be educated on the proper disinfection practices for patient rooms, waiting rooms, and all other areas of the facility.
Address Specific Infection Risks in Different Settings
Not all facility settings carry the same infection risk, so it is critical for infection control nurses to tailor their education and training appropriately. Hospital waiting rooms, for example, are one of the highest-risk settings, with a large number of patients gathering in the same place and breathing the same air. Special care should be given to address specific infection risks as they relate to different areas of the facility.
Implement Appropriate Isolation Precautions
When a healthcare worker or patient is potentially exposed to an infectious disease, it is imperative to have isolation precautions in place to prevent the spread of disease and keep others safe. Make sure everybody is aware of the proper protocols to follow in the event of exposure (or suspected exposure).
Monitor for Early Detection
Ongoing monitoring of patients and workers who may have been exposed to infectious disease is also essential. Some diseases take longer than others to show signs and symptoms, so infection control nurses should be prepared to tailor monitoring practices based on the specific disease and other details about the patient.
Overcoming Challenges in Education and Training
Infection control nurses will inevitably face some obstacles in their training, but there are some tips they can keep in mind to help them overcome these challenges.
Addressing Language and Cultural Barriers
Language and cultural barriers are common issues, especially when educating patients from diverse backgrounds on infectious disease control. This is where relying on facility resources (such as available interpreters or translators) can make all the difference in breaking down these barriers.
Dealing With Resistance or Lack of Awareness
A general lack of awareness surrounding infectious disease control is, unfortunately, a genuine problem among today’s general population. Hopefully, you will not have to face this as much with your own healthcare team—but you will likely face it with the patients that you work with. Some people may even be resistant to following best practices, such as those misinformed about things like mask use or how diseases spread. Refer to your healthcare facility’s policy regarding how to handle any staff or patients who may be reluctant to follow your instructions and advice.
Incorporating Technology and Interactive Learning
Interactive learning and innovative technologies can make education and training much more accessible and engaging for your audience, so be sure to explore the options available to you and take advantage of these opportunities when they are available.
Collaborating With Other Healthcare Professionals
When all else fails, there is nothing wrong with seeking guidance or assistance from other healthcare professionals when you need help overcoming a challenge in your line of work. Infectious disease control can be a taxing profession, but it can also be extremely rewarding. Speak with your colleagues and other trusted members of your professional network to provide the best training and education possible.
Post University Is Here to Help You Succeed
Working as an infection control nurse means making a difference in the lives of patients and healthcare workers daily. Post University is proud to offer both a Master of Science in Nursing degree as well as a graduate certificate in infection prevention and control. Learn more about these programs and reach out to our team to learn more!
Please note jobs and/or career outcomes highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs or career outcomes expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s programs and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions advisor.