By Aaron J. Moore, MSN, RN-BC, travel nurse expert
Staff nurses have it hard enough, keeping up with all of the protocols, guidelines and best practices required by their facility. Travel nurses have the added pressure of having to deal with many changing protocols every 13 weeks or so, as they move from one facility to the next.
Some of these protocols can be tough to deal with, such as transferring of patients from tertiary facilities. Some are easy, such as AHA guidelines for stroke or heart attack patients. And others, such as infection control guidelines, have become extremely hot topics since Ebola showed its ugly head in the United States just a few weeks ago.
Below is a basic outline of what standard, contact and droplet precautions for infection control might look like at your facility. Always make sure and refer to your local policies and procedures for updated information and click here for more details from the experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Standard Precautions: Standard precautions are used to care for all patients in all healthcare settings and apply to blood, all body fluids, secretions and excretions (except sweat), non-intact skin, and mucous membranes. Standard Precautions involve procedures to prevent transmission of infection through use of hand hygiene; personal protective equipment; respiratory/cough etiquette; special care in handling used equipment, linen, eating utensils; proper patient placement; cleaning and disinfection of surfaces; and safer sharps practices.
Equipment needed: As appropriate, gloves, gown, etc., including standard hand hygiene supplies and reminders.
Contact Precautions: These precautions should be used for specified patients known or suspected to be colonized or infected with epidemiologically significant microorganisms that can be transmitted by direct contact with the patient or indirect contact with environmental surfaces or patient-care items in the patient's environment. These measures are used in addition to Standard Precautions.
Equipment needed: Gloves and gown are mandatory here, folks!
Droplet Precautions: These precautions are used for a patient known or suspected to be infected with microorganisms transmitted by droplets (large-particle droplets that can be generated by the patient during coughing, sneezing, talking or performance of procedures). These measures are used in addition to Standard Precautions.
Equipment needed: Gloves and gown along with a standard mask that covers your face; this may include eye protection when appropriate. Note that the CDC’s updated Ebola protocols for personal protective equipment are much more detailed, and require more than a standard surgical mask.
Even though infection control guidelines can seem like standard protocols across all hospitals, there may be a little change here and there. So make sure and ask during orientation about what to do in all these cases, and where you can find the equipment you need. Even though the chances of you seeing an Ebola patient are very small, the chances of you taking care of a patient with Influenza are very high. So know your protocols and isolation precautions … and, as always, don’t forget to wash your hands.