If you work in healthcare, it’s likely that you’re pretty familiar with healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), such as Central Line-associated Bloodstream Infection (CLABSI), Surgical Site Infection (SSI), Catheter-associated Urinary Tract Infections (CAUTI), and Ventilator-associated Pneumonia (VAP). These are all infections associated with medical devices that are often necessary but can lead to life-threatening complications. 

Preventing HAIs 

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC reported that mandatory healthcare reporting of HAI’s showed improvements in the rates of various HAIs. However, during the first 2 years of the COVID-19 pandemic, many hospitals reported increases in HAIs. This was likely a result of several rounds of enormous ‘surges’ in patient volume, sicker patients who required longer stays and periods of intubation, central lines and urinary catheters, staffing and supply shortages as well as alterations in infection prevention practices.  

As we move into the next stage of the pandemic, with less invasive management options and shorter hospitalizations, many clinicians are looking to circle back to the basics of infection prevention. As the CDC and CloroxPro resources show, infection prevention is a ‘team sport’ that involves engagement from everyone in a healthcare facility. From surface decontamination by Environmental Services (as well as by non-EVS staff) in the form of decontaminating used equipment and high-touch surfaces in workspaces, to monitoring adherence to disinfection protocols by Infection Prevention, to liaising with clinical staff to determine the necessity of “tubes and drains,” all staff have a vital role to play in keeping patients safe. 

A Team Effort

The team dynamic that was so critical during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic (the “all-hands-on-deck”/“everyone has a crucial role” mentality), once again is a huge part of keeping HAIs at bay. As a hospitalist, I love this aspect of working in health care settings, (whether I’m at the hospital, or skilled nursing facility, or clinic), where the people you work with can set the tone for the day and will routinely save you from yourself! This is why I try to do team rounding on Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients, so that, hopefully, a team member will ask “is the central line still necessary?” while another clinician might say “can we possibly discontinue the urinary catheter?” to help guide patients safely through their hospital course without picking up any HAIs along the way.

For HAIs where surface contamination is a major source of spread (such as C. diff), thorough handwashing as well as attention to surfaces is key. In terms of decontamination of surfaces and devices, CloroxPro has many resources to help steer healthcare facilities as they try to say “see you later” to HAIs. 

Unlike the pandemic, HAIs are not “unprecedented,” and we know exactly what we need to do to minimize their presence in the healthcare environment. After navigating the uncertainty and fear of the early pandemic, I personally feel a bit of relief when I think about returning (with my healthcare teammates) to the basics of HAI prevention.