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Show full transcript for Hospital Associated Infections video

In any healthcare setting, standard precautions must be followed when a patient is either suspected or confirmed of having an infection. In this lesson, we'll dig a little deeper into common infections in healthcare settings, along with certain practices that will help stop the spread of infection and keep you safe.

It's important that you follow all practices that are designed to protect both yourself – the healthcare professional – as well as the patients you serve, as infections can easily spread from patient to healthcare provider and then onward to other patients.

Such practices include:

  • Handwashing and hygiene
  • Use of personal protective equipment like gloves, gowns, and masks
  • Safe injection practices
  • Safe handling of potentially contaminated equipment or surfaces in a healthcare setting
  • Respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette

As a healthcare professional, part of your job is to protect against the spread of bloodborne pathogens and infectious diseases. Furthermore, healthcare providers have an ethical and professional responsibility to adhere to scientifically accepted or evidence-based practices and principles of infection control and to monitor the performance of those for whom the healthcare provider is also responsible.

Pro Tip #1: Multiple states publish best practices for infection control. Some states include a legal responsibility to adhere to these infection control practices that are in place. So, make sure you're following the proper guidelines at your healthcare facility.

Common Hospital Associated Infections (HAI)

Hospital-associated infections are those that originate or occur in a healthcare or healthcare-like setting. If you're thinking that this sounds like an oxymoron, in that people go to hospitals to get well – not sicker – you'd be right, and yet …

Warning: The CDC estimates that each year in the U.S. alone, hospital-associated infections account for 1.7 million infections, and of those cases, 99,000 result in death. That's yearly!

These infections can be associated with a number of procedures and devices, such as the use of catheters and ventilators.

The most common class of hospital-associated infections are bloodstream infections like pneumonia, ventilator-associated pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and surgical site infections.

Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections are the most common type of hospital-associated infections and are often the result of a catheter or tube that has been used to empty urine from the bladder.

Bacteria can enter the body at the site where an IV or catheter is inserted. Also, a local infection can develop in the skin around the catheter. Bacteria can also enter the blood through veins that go near the heart and cause a more serious infection known as sepsis.

Pro Tip #2: The deeper and longer a catheter is in place, the greater the chance of it resulting in an infection.

Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia

Ventilator-associated pneumonia occurs when bacteria and other germs enter the lungs from an endotracheal tube that has been attached to a ventilator. When bacteria begin to grow in the tube, an infection develops that can lead to pneumonia.

Surgical Site Infections

Having surgery can increase the potential risk of getting an infection, as surgery provides a pathway for bacteria to enter a normally sterile part of the body.

The risk of infection is also present post-surgery, as wounds can easily become infected when dressings are changed.

Common Pathogens that Cause Hospital Associated Infections

There are a few common pathogens most responsible for causing hospital-associated infections, and these are:

  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • E. coli
  • Klebsiella
  • Clostridium difficile (C-diff)

Pro Tip #3: MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) is a strain of staph that is resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics that are commonly used to treat it. As a result, and as you might imagine, MRSA can be fatal.

Pseudomonas Aeruginosa

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is another pathogen that is highly resistant to antibiotics. For this reason, it can lead to more serious infections like septicemia, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and chronic lung infections.

E. Coli

E. coli is characterized by severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Some strains of E. coli can be life-threatening.

Klebsiella

Klebsiella is a gram-negative bacterium that can cause different types of serious hospital-associated infections like pneumonia, bloodstream infections, wound and surgical site infections, and meningitis.

Clostridium Difficile (C-diff)

C-diff can lead to gastrointestinal infections, as spores are easily transferred to patients mainly via the hands of healthcare professionals who previously touched a contaminated surface or piece of equipment.

C-diff is often the result of overuse or improper use of antibiotics. Patients most at risk are the elderly, particularly those who were already on antibiotics.

When it comes to infectious diseases, particularly those that most commonly originate (or are spread) in healthcare settings, prevention is the best strategy for reducing the incidences of hospital-associated infections.

Pro Tip #4: Keep in mind the extraordinary number of infections (1.7 million) that originate each year in American healthcare settings, along with the staggering number of deaths as a result (99,000). Then examine ways in which you, the healthcare provider, can help reduce this risk so that patients can get the help they need, rather than getting sicker.