The Nurse’s Role in Preventing Infection

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The responsibility for safeguarding patients against infectious diseases rests largely with nurses.

Infection is a very real danger in healthcare facilities, despite their reputations for cleanliness and sterilization procedures. In September 2018, an outbreak of a fungal infection called candida auris, or C. auris, was discovered in New York City, according to the Medscape article, “Large Cluster of Fluconazole-Resistant Candida Auris Found.”

Cultures taken by New York State’s Healthcare Epidemiology and Infection Control Program showed that 15 out of 20 area facilities tested positive for the fungus, the article reports. Samples were taken from such locations as bed rails, IV poles, beds, curtains and mobile equipment wheeled from room to room — surfaces that should be regularly disinfected to avoid such outbreaks.

Upholding strict infection control procedures in clinical settings is crucial to patient care and effective facility operation. The responsibility for safeguarding patients against infectious diseases rests largely with nurses, some of whom may be designated as infection prevention nurses.

One of the benefits of BSN programs is that coursework touches on all aspects of patient care, including the importance of sterilization and disinfection throughout healthcare facilities. Students in Duquesne University’s RN-BSN online program can learn the most efficient methods of incorporating infection control procedures into their daily nursing practice.

Why Infection Control Is Important in Clinical Settings

Healthcare facilities have some of the strictest cleanliness and sterility standards in the world. Nevertheless, germs and pathogens can spread rapidly through a population of patients with injuries, illnesses and weakened immune systems, making disinfection an imperative and ongoing process.

 Staphylococcus aureus (better known as staph infection) is particularly dangerous in healthcare clinics and hospitals, according to Oncology Nursing Society Voice editor Elisa Becze’s article, “Put Evidence into Practice to Prevent Infection.” Cancer patients in particular suffer a high mortality rate through sepsis, which can result from a staph infection.
Other patient risk factors for infection in hospitals and clinics include:

  • Advanced-stage diseases
  • Neutropenia
  • Leukemia and lymphomas
  • Breast and lung cancer
  • Age, especially for patients over 65
  • Recent surgery
  • Open wounds
  • Pre-existing infections
  • Renal/liver disfunction
  • Poor nutrition
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunosuppressive medications

Every facility has its own particular infection risks. In prisons, for instance, the most common issues are syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, hepatitis B and C, staph infection and tuberculosis, according to prison nurse Kissa M. Robinson’s Medscape article, “What’s It Like to Be an Infection Prevention Nurse in a Correctional Facility?”

Robinson spends much of her time educating inmates and staff about sexually transmitted infections, the correct disposal of biohazardous waste, and the isolation and management of lice, scabies and bed bugs. She also exercises more traditional infection control in her prison clinic, which follows the same cleanliness standards as other healthcare facilities.

Procedures That Reduce the Probability of Infection

Nurses should prioritize infection control in their daily routines and encourage coworkers to do the same. Cleaning routines and checklists can help staff to become habituated to disinfecting procedures ranging from wiping down surfaces to replacing bedsheets and disposing of biohazards.

Single-use syringes, latex gloves and plastics with antimicrobial additives help improve a facility’s sterility and cleanliness. Nurses and facility staff should also clean surfaces on a regular schedule, using specially designed sanitizing soaps, and follow proper quarantine regulations to lower the risk of infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a checklist for infection-prevention procedures, including:

  • Disinfection and sterilization: Follow proper cleaning routines for patient-care items and medical devices.
  • Hand hygiene: Use approved antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-microbial soaps for thorough cleansing of hands before and after contact with patients.
  • Environmental infection control: Use HEPA filters for ventilation and HVAC systems; keep duct intake areas free of potential contaminants.
  • Isolation precautions: Instruct clinic staff to spot potential contaminants and symptoms of infectious diseases so infected people or items can be isolated to limit exposure.

Other issues that can worsen if cleaning procedures are not followed correctly include:

  • Multi-drug resistant organisms
  • Intravascular catheter-related infections
  • Organ transplant and surgical site infections
  • Ebola
  • Norovirus
  • Pneumonia
  • Smallpox
  • Tuberculosis
  • Influenza
  • Dentistry-related infections

The more knowledgeable healthcare facility staff is about infection prevention and the dangers associated with pathogens, bacteria, funguses and other infection agents, the more closely they will adhere to infection-control procedures.

The Role of Technology in Fighting Infection

Small crevices, folds, joints and the indentations on screw heads are often beyond the reach of traditional disinfecting methods. Some hospitals are using technological advancements such as a specific type of ultraviolet light called UV-C to kill pathogens that elude manual cleaning processes.

UV-C devices are being added to the disinfecting routine for hospital rooms, hard surfaces and noncritical equipment and devices, according to Megan Knowles’ Becker’s Hospital Review article, “The Power of Light: How Hospitals Can Harness UV Energy to Reduce HAIs [hospital-associated infections].”

Experts say no-touch technologies are no replacement for traditional disinfection processes, Knowles noted, but they can be an important part of a healthcare facility’s sanitation procedures.

BSN-educated nurses are part of the front lines against infection in their workplaces. To maintain a clean and sterile facility, they need to understand the risks associated with germs and pathogens and the importance of infection control procedures to the health of their patients and the operation of their facility as a whole.

About Duquesne’s RN-BSN Online Program

Duquesne University offers one of the top-ranked online RN-BSN programs in the nation and enables a registered nurse with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a diploma in nursing to earn a BSN degree. Duquesne’s RN-BSN curriculum includes genetics, epidemiology, pathophysiology, ethics, information technology and population-based health.

Classes start in fall, spring and summer, and the program can be completed 100 percent online. For more information, visit the Duquesne University online RN-BSN webpage.



Large Cluster of Candida Auris Found – Medscape

Put Evidence into Practice to Prevent Infection – ONS Voice

Infection Prevention Nurse in a Correctional Facility – Medscape

Guidelines Library – CDC

The Power of Light – Becker’s Hospital Review