APIC: How to Have a Healthy Hospital Stay

To commemorate Patient Safety Awareness Week (March 2-8), the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) is issuing five steps every patient can take to become his or her own advocate and reduce the risk of developing an infection during a hospital stay.

1. First Step, Hospital Prep
Most people invest more time into selecting a movie at the video store than they spend on their healthcare options. Research the hospital's infection control practices, such as their hand hygiene policy. Discuss strategies for infection prevention with your healthcare team prior to surgery. Follow your doctor's instructions to wash with chlorhexidine soap before entering the hospital for surgery or other invasive procedures to remove bacteria from your skin.

2. Antibiotics/Infections
The average hospital patient receives 10 different drugs during a single stay. The misuse and overuse of antibiotics produces strains of increasingly drug-resistant germs--like MRSA--that cause serious hospital-acquired infections. Ask if the antibiotics you are prescribed are necessary, take them as directed, and don't insist on antibiotics if your doctor doesn't advise them--in or out of the hospital.

3. Be Careful with Catheters
One in four Americans in the hospital right now has a urinary catheter. The risk of an uncomfortable urinary tract infection increases significantly if the catheter is left in place longer than two to three days. Ask if it is necessary to have a urinary catheter. If your catheter is still in place 48 hours after surgery, ask if removal is possible.

4. Knowing the Important People on Your Care Team
Patients often see a myriad of healthcare workers, but they don't usually see those who work behind the scenes to help prevent infections. All facilities should have an Infection Prevention and Control Professional (ICP)--a qualified nurse or professional dedicated to the prevention of healthcare-associated infections. If you have questions about your risk of infection, ask to see the ICP.

5. Hand Hygiene
Germs can hide on many surfaces in the hospital--including bed rails, stethoscopes, faucets, and even the TV remote control. You can pick up these germs on your hands, so keep hands away from your wound and your face, and wash your hands frequently. Your room should be cleaned with disinfectant regularly. Be bold--it's not impolite to insist that anyone who touches you--including doctors, nurses and visitors--wash their hands with soap or a 60 percent alcohol hand sanitizer.

Visit www.apic.org during Patient Safety Awareness Week to learn more.

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