By Douglas H Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs
There’s a germ – or two – that are just dying to meet you. And you. And you.
But not if Naval Hospital Bremerton (NHB) can prevent it.
NHB is reminding everyone to help ‘Weed out Germs,’ during this year’s National Patient Safety Awareness Week that is being showcased with a lavish Quarterdeck setup the entire week of March 13-18, 2017.
“Every time we do this event, we focus on a specific goal from the National Patient Safety Foundation for every hospital for that year. This year we are concentrating on hand hygiene and the stated goal to ‘reduce the risk of health-care associated infection.’ Our intention is to try and have everyone ‘Weed out Germs’ at home, at play and especially at work here at NHB,” said Cmdr. Kevin Burns, Quality Management Department Head.
This year’s campaign for the Department of Defense is about uniting across the Military Health System and recognizing that everyone, – health care providers, non-clinical staff, patients, and families – has a role to play in keeping patients safe and free from harm.
The 2017 National Patient Safety Goal calling to ‘reduce the risk of health care-associated infections’ recommends to comply with either World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hand hygiene guidelines, which NHB continues to take a proactive stance on.
“Historically in many hospital settings, it’s been difficult to consistently get staff members to always practice proper hygiene. We not only want our staff to wash their hands after every patient encounter and visit to the restroom, but we also want our patients and visitors to do the same,” Burns said.
The CDC states that hand washing is the single most important thing that anyone can do to prevent infection. Hand hygiene, either washing or use of an alcohol based hand sanitizer should take place between every patient contact. An alcohol based hand sanitizer should be used after covering a cough or sneeze, and before donning sterile gloves or any invasive procedure. The CDC recommends hand washing when hands are visibly or known to be contaminated such as after using the toilet or following removal of gloves if there was contact with blood or other infectious material or contaminated items. To get contaminated hands clean, CDC recommends a minimum of 10-15 seconds of brisk mechanical action with soap and warm running water. Whether a person sanitizes or washes, each method is very effective in decreasing the risk of cross contamination and spread of infection.
Hand washing or sanitizing may seem easy, but unfortunately, national research shows that hospital staffs wash or sanitize their hands only half the time they should. When hands are not cleaned properly, both patients and staff can get infections. Many of these infections are serious and can lead to illnesses or even death.
For those who think that they’re immune and that there isn’t any germ actively seeking them, there are a few realities that might possibly offer a surprising sanity check.
An average office desk has 400 times more bacteria than a toilet handle. A mobile phone has 18 times more bacteria than someone’s toilet. Household bacteria hotspots that most people take for granted yet can make someone very sick are fridge handles; toothbrush holder; countertops; sponges; cutting boards; and television remotes.
This event for all NHB staff, patients and visitors is an ongoing education and awareness campaign for healthcare safety spearheaded by the command’s Quality Management Department.
According to Mayda Schaefer, Quality Management Patient Safety Analyst and prime architect of the annual elaborate display, each year health care organizations like NHB take part in the global event to advocate that everyone in the health care process plays a role in delivering safe care and sharing that common goal can make a difference in patient safety.
“We are cordially inviting everyone to visit our Quarterdeck display to remind them about prevention being a key to ‘Weed out Germs,’” said Schaefer.
Germs come in a variety of shapes, sizes and severity. They have likes and dislikes. Some of the germs attempting to meet, as many, unsuspecting people include ‘Pertussis,’ formally known as whooping cough. Pertussis likes people who don’t seek treatment quickly and cough out loud, especially at parties. Pertussis dislikes those who get the DtaP and Tdap vaccine and like to be clean. There’s ‘Streptococcal Pharyngitis,’ which like generous people who like to share kisses (not the chocolate kind) and drinks and dislikes stingy people who don’t smooch others or share a drink. Then there’s ‘Superbug,’ which likes to bully most antibiotics and people who don’t take all of their antibiotics or reuse old leftover antibiotics with little to no resistance.
Antibiotic resistance and bacterial resistance are two ways of describing the same thing. Usually, antibiotics kill bacteria or stop them from growing. However, some germs/bacteria have become resistant to some types of antibiotics. Germs/bacteria become resistant more quickly when antibiotics are used to often or are not used correctly, such as not taking a full course of antibiotics as prescribed by a doctor.
Other 2017 National Patient Safety Goals for hospitals include improving the accuracy of patient identification; improving the effectiveness of communication among caregivers; improving the safety of using medication; reducing the harm associated with clinical alarm systems; reducing the risk of health care-associated infections; identifying safety risks inherent in the patient population, and adhering to the Universal Protocol for preventing wrong site, wrong procedure, and wrong person surgery.
There is one germ fact however that might be considered a plus. Chocolate has an anti-bacterial effect on the mouth and protects against tooth decay. That’s a kiss that can definitely be shared.