Keeping Our Patients Safe During COVID-19
April 24, 2020
by Infection Preventionist Teresa Shepherd, RN, CIC/Quality & Risk
Treating infectious diseases, including the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), is not new to hospitals, and the guidelines for protecting patients, our team members and visitors are comprehensive and evidence-based. You hear often that COVID-19 patients are treated in isolation, and while specific elements of COVID-19 isolation may differ from other infectious diseases, the fundamental practices for isolation treatment do not. Isolation is meant to prevent spread of infectious diseases between patients and the team members treating them, between patients and their visitors, and between patients and other patients, team members and visitors throughout the hospital.
Treating patients in isolation
It’s important to note that many patients are treated using various isolation practices, for everything from pink eye to COVID-19. Isolation practices vary based on how a specific infectious disease is spread.
- If the disease is primarily spread through physical contact, team members and visitors will follow guidelines specific to preventing spread through direct or indirect contact, which would include things like wearing gloves or a gown.
- If the disease is spread through droplets of mucus or saliva, team members and visitors will follow guidelines specific to preventing spread through droplets, which would include things like wearing a mask when working closely with the patient.
- If the disease is spread through airborne particles that can be spread through inhalation, team members and visitors will follow guidelines specific to preventing spread through air, which would include placing patients in rooms with monitored negative air pressure (to prevent spread through air circulation to other parts of the hospital) and wearing respiratory protection while in the room.
Safety practices in isolation
Fundamental safety practices for treating patients in isolation are consistent, though, no matter how the disease is spread, and these include:
- Handwashing: Handwashing is the bedrock of hospital safety and infection prevention. All team members wash their hands or use a hand sanitizing solution upon entry and exit of the room, and even between treatments on the same patient when appropriate. Handwashing is done even if gloves are worn while in the room.
- Patient placement and transport: Patients in isolation are typically assigned to private rooms, and additional safety precautions are taken any time they are transported between departments or rooms.
- Personal protective equipment: Team members entering isolation rooms wear personal protective equipment (PPE). The required PPE varies based on how the specific disease is spread, and in the case of COVID-19, typically includes a mask and gown.
- Nutrition, environmental services and more: Team members who deliver food or provide cleaning services follow strict guidelines and limit unnecessary entry to isolation rooms. These practices ensure patients still receive excellent care and service while limiting additional exposure and conserving PPE use.
Universal Masking at Southwestern Medical Center
As a patient or visitor to the hospital or an outpatient clinic, you will be asked to wear a mask, and you will also notice all of our team members, in every department, are wearing masks, too. Universal masking is a proactive measure we’re taking to significantly reduce the potential spread of illness. This, layered with our screening at each point of entry for all team members, patients and visitors, provides additional protection for everyone in our facilities.
These protective measures for managing infectious diseases ensure our hospital is always safe for you and your loved ones when you need care.