During a Disaster, Is Infection Control On Your Mind?

posted Jun 23, 2011, 5:08 PM by Todd Fox   [ updated Sep 24, 2016, 8:46 AM ]

During a Disaster, Is Infection Control On Your Mind?


The premise of this article deals with the manner in which instructors should be training students to minimize the aftermath of disasters through proactive infection control.  Specifically, hygiene and infection control standards and knowledge should to be at the base of all trainings- not just taught in a single session.  Although we could stretch this topic to all aspects of healthcare, we want to focus solely on disasters and the large responsibility of medical professionals during crises. 


Instead of instructors conducting one lesson that attempts to encompass the broad infection control topic, it is recommended to take a few minutes each class to relate infection control to the current discussion.  Essentially, below every skill test should be a strong foundation of infection knowledge in order to keep the care giver safe as well as reduce further spread of illness and disease among victims.  For example, if the discussion is about lifting victims correctly, instructors should take time to discuss the risks of infection while in contact with the victim.  Possible questions may be:  What areas of the victim’s body might have infectious material (secretion points, hands, clothes, etc.)?  Is the victim still or moving?  Is the victim coughing, throwing up or releasing fluids in other ways?  Are your clothes dragging on the victim’s clothes? 


Having students ask these questions is important because circumstances change in a disaster, and they change fast.  Coming up with questions for each skill set that is taught will effectively get the students thinking of their actions in regards to infection as they perform the necessary tasks.  Students need to eventually develop a natural tendency to ask questions.  The following are some reasons for stressing that students continually learn and prepare by asking questions:


·         Basic tasks become highly stressful in a disaster situation and people make mistakes while being stressed- often forgetting about risks of infection

·         The amount of time per patient shrinks when so many people are in need of care which leaves care givers less time for compliance

·         The disaster environment (assuming a lot of damage and casualties) may throw care providers off from their routines and make them sloppy with risk management

·         Complications and issues arise when care providers are unprepared and surprised


Speaking solely about infection control, the above may cause:

·         Infections caused during care (HAIs- Healthcare Acquired Infections)

·         Illnesses or diseases communicated to the care givers

·         Additional deaths or complications (for victims, care givers and also friends and family of care givers)

·         Lawsuits and claims if actions can be deemed negligible

·         Court and attorney fees regardless of guilt or innocence (you have to defend yourself)


The best thing that can be done is to ensure that possible care givers are trained with infection control guidelines as a second nature.  They will not be as shaken during a disaster situation.  Care will be more consistent when they have been prepared for both the skills and the underlying hygiene standards.  Care givers will be more intelligently providing care as they make their way through long lists of needy victims.


If you would like more information about questions to ask, prevention information or teaching ideas please contact OUTFOX Prevention.  We look forward to partnering with you to OUTFOX illness and disease!

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