How We Defend Against Hospital Infections

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hospitals are places of healing—we go there to get well when we're injured or ill. And while hospitals are very safe, there is some risk of getting an infection while you're receiving medical treatment.

We want you to know that we take hospital-acquired infections (HAIs)seriously—and we do everything possible to prevent them.

Some common HAIs include:

Central line infections. A central line is a catheter placed in a large vein. It's used to give medicines or fluids or to collect blood for medical tests. Unlike a regular IV, central lines stay in place longer—sometimes for weeks or months—which means there's more opportunities for bacteria or other germs to enter the bloodstream and cause an infection.

Urinary tract infections from catheters. Catheters are used to drain urine in many hospital patients.

Surgical-site infections. These can occur near the part of the body where surgery was done.

The highly trained care teams who work at hospitals follow many recommended practices that have been shown to help decrease hospital infection rates, including:

• Washing their hands before and after caring for you.

• Cleaning the skin at the surgical site with a special soap that kills germs, and scrubbing their hands and arms up to the elbows with an antiseptic just before surgery.

• Using gloves and other sterile medical equipment when inserting central lines and urinary catheters.

• Removing central lines and urinary catheters as soon as they're no longer needed.

• Give antibiotics before surgery, when indicated.

As a patient, you can help prevent infections too. Here are some suggestions:

• Ask your provider how to prepare for surgery. For instance, you should not shave the surgical area yourself.

• Remind everyone who visits you to wash their hands before and after leaving the room. And if you don't see your providers wash their hands, don't hesitate to remind them. They will not be offended.

• Don't let visitors touch the area around your central line or bandage. Tell the doctor or nurse if the area gets sore or red or if you feel feverish.

• Feel free to speak up anytime you have concerns about your care. You're part of your healthcare team too!

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