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February 2018

First, do no harm; hygiene awareness in medical facilities

Written by Lemay Rogers
Workplace Hygiene Leave a Comment

I found myself in the unfortunate position recently of having a close family member require an emergency medical procedure, and I went through a number of stages after I had received the news.

First, there was some shock and disbelief that someone that seemed 100% healthy a minute ago was no longer so. Then there was denial; did the Surgeon really assess the situation properly?  I then moved onto emotional preparation, in order to support this person and my relatives in the best way possible.  And then there was the day of the actual procedure, spent anxiously sitting next to the phone, waiting for news.  And finally, daily check-ins to find out about progress, expert opinions and whether there was anything further I could do to support.

Whilst visiting my relative in the high care unit of the hospital it struck me that we put a lot of faith in - and focus on - good hygiene practices in these situations. These practices are of critical importance to keep patients - who have just gone through life saving procedures - safe, but they also keep our specialists, nurses, surgeons and ourselves out of harm’s way.  

Sitting in the waiting area I reviewed Nicole’s recent post on the evolution of hygiene practices and how far we have come through the history of hygiene and medical practices. Although our Medical Professionals can’t guarantee a speedy recovery for everyone, good hygiene practices have helped the profession save more lives post-operatively than was ever possible previously, by reducing cross contamination.

Working for Initial, I have become acutely aware of my own hygiene practices and those of the people around me. It’s not just about washing one’s hands properly or sanitising to prevent the spread of germs.  For me, the conversation has evolved to include things like; where are the hand sanitiser stations placed; how often did I see the designated High Care medical professional wash his hands properly, was there sufficient paper close to the basin so that water didn’t drip on the floor, what was the last touch point before the patient was touched, and were the medical professional’s hands disinfected at that stage?

(Yes, I’m probably overreacting, but this is what a world class hygiene provider trains you to be aware of, and you can’t forget about it even in personal, stressful situations. If anything, the obsession intensifies).

I am happy to report that in this specific hospital the hygiene standards were impeccable and the level of awareness and hygiene training was clearly evident in the way that every member of staff conducted themselves. As a family member, this provided me with comfort and reassurance that patients were being cared for and that there was a genuine interest in their recovery.

If you haven’t been exposed to the hygiene aspect of health care facilities or would like to improve your personal hygiene practices I would like you to consider the following;

  • Wash your hands properly with soap and water especially before eating and after using bathroom facilities. Here’s how.
  • Sanitise your hands regularly, especially when in high risk areas like hospitals or clinics.  In this case, it was of vital importance for me to sanitise my hands upon entering the hospital, upon entering high care and when leaving the hospital.
  • If you are visiting someone in hospital be aware of your actions. If you feel a cold coming on, minimise your personal contact with the patient and be sure to cough into your sleeve rather than your hand. Or if the person’s immune system is compromised, rather not kiss the patient hello. Better yet, delay your visit until you are 100% healthy to minimise the risk of cross infection.
  • When children accompany you, ensure they also observe good hygiene practices. For anyone with small children I’m sure you will agree that they can’t help but touch EVERYTHING around them.  
  • Look for indicators. If hand sanitiser stations are installed in public areas it is more than likely an indicator that it is a “high risk” environment. Use the products supplied.

Whether we like to admit it or not, cross contamination is a risk to our health. Good hygiene practices are everyone’s responsibility; they don’t just lie with healthcare professionals. It’s up to all of us to minimise cross contamination and to educate those around us on hygiene awareness.

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Lemay Rogers

Lemay Rogers

Lémay Rogers is the Marketing Manager for Rentokil Initial. When not contributing to the Initial blog, she is the custodian of all things Marketing for Rentokil Initial South Africa, and supports the Sub-Saharan African businesses. As a frequent traveller AND mother of a toddler, she is all too aware of how easily germs can travel with us, from one location to another and then back to our homes. Follow Lémay on Twitter and LinkedIn for practical advice on good hygiene practices, both at home and in the workplace.

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