Colds, flus, mysterious stomach ailments. Hundreds of viral and bacterial infections are passing through hospitals every day, and yet nurses and other medical personnel are able to rise above these sick storms. This is no accident. It takes careful planning and some dedicated work, usually initiated by the head nurse in charge.
Health care facilities naturally necessitate a sterile environment in order to protect patients and workers from the spread of infectious disease. Of course, this is an ongoing responsibility since new germs are constantly being introduced into the environment. Professional cleaning crews are typically employed to handle the sterilization on a large scale, but it is the minute to minute practices instilled by the head nurse that provides the most protection.
The Contradiction of Providing a Clean Environment in a Medical Facility
One of the challenges that a head nurse faces in keeping a clean work place is the use of chemicals that could be harmful to humans. Disinfectants are a necessary component in the cleaning processes, yet pose their own set of health risks. To combat this conundrum, the Sustainable Hospitals Program (SHP) was initiated in 1998. Started at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, this program provides science based guidance to nurses that help in choosing products and enacting practices that are taking into consideration occupational and environmental health and safety.
A head nurse in charge of keeping the work place clean is advised to follow these practices:
- Assessment – Identify what patients, nurses and other workers will potentially be exposed to in order to determine the types of cleaning products needed.
- Characterize – Organize various cleaning products according to the separate risk that they have from exposure.
- Effectiveness – Evaluate the effectiveness of cleaning products being used to ensure that they are promoting a sterile environment without harm. There are a number of environmentally safe cleaners available that are effective at killing germs without adding unnecessary chemicals into your workplace.
- Analyze – Nurses should observe the work place environment when changes in cleaning procedures and products are made, and note any increase or decrease in infection transmission.
The constant cleaning of any healthcare facility is essential from a medical standpoint. Complications in the care of patients will be avoided when the pathogenic burden is consistently being lessened. Health risks to nurses and other health care providers are also lessened, allowing them to better care for patients inside of the facility.
Cleaning Your Work Space for Infection Prevention and Control
The head nurse knows that constant cleaning is not only for aesthetics, but that it is critical for patient care. An infectious agent is easily transmitted from one patient to the next when proper cleaning procedures are not being practiced. This includes the nurse’s station, where you may stop by and make a quick phone call in between patient rounds.
Keeping antibacterial wipes at the nurse’s station readily available is one trick that a clean conscious head nurse will have. These make germ control easy, even under busy circumstances. Take a second to wipe down all surfaces in the nurses station when you arrive and before you leave to reduce the risk of transmitting germs. Don’t forget the phone key pad and mouth piece, as well as your computer key pad and mouse.
Shift starts and ends should entail a more detailed cleaning, where a bleach or other disinfectant solution is used to wipe down all working surfaces in the nurse’s station. Environmentally friendly products can ensure that germs are eliminated, but that no one is being left exposed to dangerous chemicals. Wipe down each surface thoroughly, and then use a clean and sterile towel to dry them off before calling it a clean day.
A head nurse that knows a thing or two about clean work environments also knows the risk of germ transference on your person. Stethoscopes, pens, keys and other items that are a standard part of your uniform are also a source of infectious pathogens. Make a habit of cleaning all items on your person regularly through-out each shift. Not only will this make sure you don’t move an infection from one bed to the next, it helps to make sure that you don’t bring an infection home with you.
Responsible head nurses are always impeccably dressed, in clean uniforms that are changed out regularly. Have an extra set ready in your locker for the event that yours has been compromised by bodily fluids. This includes socks and shoes, as you never know what type of infection you might have just stepped into.
With the use of gloves, gowns, masks and other protective devices, a new nurse may feel like this is all cleaning overkill. Yet it cannot be denied that changes in cleaning practices in health care facilities has led to a reduction in illness transmission. Do your part by following the lead of the head nurse, who got that way by always being diligent in her cleaning policies.