Educating Patients about Infection Control

infection control curtainsEducation about infection control is actually one of the most important tools in the fight against the spread of infection. As well as educating the healthcare professionals involved, it is also important to take steps to educate the patients, so that they can play an important part in protecting themselves and others.

Start with the very basics

Teaching patients the very basics of infection control can drastically cut down on the spread of disease. Simple things like washing their hands with soap and water, rather than just washing with cold water can help to save lives. Another trick is to sneeze into your elbow, rather than onto your hands. If people sneeze into their hands, and then subsequently touch things around them, infection can spread easily. Many germs can live on a surface for a significant amount of time, so germs which are transferred from a patient’s hands to the door handle, can then be picked up by another person who touches that door handle.

Make infection control education reassuring, not frightening

If you are teaching patients about essential aspects of infection control, make the process a reassuring one, rather than a terrifying one. Patients are more likely to respond to something if they are comfortable with the notions that are being taught. Remember that patients tend to be in a lonely and vulnerable position, because of their current health condition, and taking a frightening approach to infection control can leave patients in a mentally unstable position. Scaring patients can lead to paranoid actions and over-engagement in the process, which can both lead to health concerns of their own. Taking a frightening or negative approach to the issue can also leave patients afraid to ask questions, meaning that they will not be happy to clarify things that they don’t understand properly. For some patients, it can be helpful to carry out the majority of the educational process when they have a friend, family member or advocate with them.

Reinforcing by doing

Reinforce the need for proper infection control by doing the steps that you have been teaching. This shows that your words were not hollow, and that you are also following the same steps, to help to prevent the spread of infection. For example, you can say “I’m just going to wash my hands”, before you carry out a procedure, so that they patient feels reassured and reminded of the importance of handwashing. You can also gently remind them to do the same thing. The more that they do something, the more likely it is to stick in their minds in future.

Provide education in multiple formats

It is important that everyone fully understand the need for infection control, so be willing and able to provide infection control advice in multiple formats. For example, some people respond well to pamphlets about infection control, because these pamphlets allow them to read and re-read the information, meaning that they can take it all in properly. Pamphlets also offer the opportunity for information in multiple languages.

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