Preventing infection is important for all healthcare professionals
Before you entered medical assistant school, did you realize how important hand washing was? Proper handwashing is crucial for preventing the spread of infections. In a healthcare environment, it is especially important not to spread illness from patient to patient, especially when dealing with elderly patients, very young patients, and patients who are immunocompromised.
Furthermore, as a healthcare provider, you don’t want to get sick yourself! Your patients may present with communicable illnesses, and you want to do your best to protect yourself. For all of these reasons, it is important to follow the recommended guidelines.
The following guidelines are modified from the CDC’s hand hygiene webpage and the article “Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-care Settings. MMWR 2002; vol. 51, no. RR-16.”
1. Know what to wash your hands with: soap or hand rub
Most healthcare facilities have sinks in every room as well as hand rub.
- Use soap and water if there is anything visibly dirty on your hands or if you know they are contaminated
- Use your facility’s hand rub if your hands are not visibly dirty
2. Know when to wash your hands
Healthcare workers obviously wash their hands a lot! Here are the guidelines for when to wash.
- Before you come into direct contact with a patient
- Before you put on gloves, if you are going to do an invasive procedure
- After you have any direct contact with a patient. This includes having contact with their skin, even when the skin is intact. It also includes having contact with any broken skin, excretions, fluids, or wound dressings.
- After you remove your gloves
3. Know how to use hand rub properly
Hand rub can be a simple and fast solution for washing your hands on the go. But it’s still critical that you do it properly.
- Look at the container to see how much hand rub you should use. Dispense that amount into the palm of your hand.
- Cover the entire surface of your hands and fingers with the rub.
- Continue rubbing until your hands are dry. Waiting until the rub dries is very important for it to be effective in killing the germs.
4. Know how to wash correctly with soap and water
We have all been washing our hands with soap and water since we were kids, but for healthcare workers including medical assistants, it is critical to get it right.
- Get your hands wet the whole way up to your forearms.
- Look at the soap container, and dispense the recommended amount of soap into one palm.
- Rub your hands together. Be sure to cover your hands, finger, and forearms with the lather. Rub for 20 seconds. Rushing through this part can allow germs to survive, so don’t rush!
- Rinse very thoroughly so that all the lather is completely off your hands and arms.
- Dry very thoroughly using a sanitary disposable towel.
- Turn off the faucet using the towel to protect your clean hands. Dispose of towel.
5. Know when to wear gloves
Gloves are not necessary for all patient contact. Become familiar with your organization’s policies on wearing gloves. Here are the guidelines from the CDC.
- Wear gloves whenever you will have contact with blood or other body fluids, in accordance with universal/standard precautions.
- When you are finished caring for a patient, dispose of the gloves properly.
- Always change gloves between patients. Never wear the same gloves to care for another patient.
- Do not wash gloves.
6. Know how to wear your fingernails
Different employers may have different rules about fingernails and artificial nails. Make sure you know the rules at your facility.
- Long fingernails can harbor bacterial. Your fingernails should be ¼ inch in length or shorter.
- Most healthcare facilities do not allow you to wear artificial nails if you work with high-risk patients.
By using good hand hygiene practices, you will be doing yourself a favor and helping to protect the health of your patients. This is a critical responsibility of medical assistants and all healthcare professionals. Be sure to do your part to help prevent the spread of infection!
The Salter School offers a Professional Medical Assistant training program at its campuses in Fall River, Malden, and Tewksbury, Massachusetts. Contact us online to find out how to enroll.