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8 Tips to Reduce Infection and Injury Risk While in Hospital

March 13, 2022

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that one in 10 people is harmed while in the hospital. Harm can be defined in many ways, such as falling, receiving the wrong medications, or getting a healthcare-associated infection (HAI) that can lead to sepsis. To help mark Patient Safety Awareness Week, March 13 to 19, here are eight tips to reduce your risk of injury or new illness while in a hospital or other healthcare setting.

1- Wash your hands.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in 31 hospitalized patients will develop at least one HAI. Like any other infection, an unrecognized and untreated HAI could lead to sepsis. To reduce your infection risk, wash your hands often and ask all visitors to do so as well. All staff must wash their hands and, if needed, put on clean gloves before touching you. You can also keep a bottle of hand sanitizer by your bedside for your own use if you can’t get up to wash your hands at a sink.

2- Ask when invasive devices can be removed.

If you have a urinary catheter or an intravenous (IV) line, ask every day if it can be taken out. Hospitals usually have a protocol for how long such devices may remain in place, but sometimes they are left in longer than needed. Any invasive device increases HAI risk, so the sooner the devices can be safely removed, the better.

3 – Allow housekeeping staff to come into your room to clean.

It can be disturbing to have a cleaner in the room if you’re trying to rest, but the staff may not be able to return later. Also, try to limit the number of personal items on the furniture so the surfaces can be easily wiped down. Clean surfaces reduce your exposure to bacteria and viruses.

4- Ask questions about your care.

If you aren’t sure about something, speak up. For example, if a nurse gives you medications and a pill doesn’t look familiar, ask what it is and what it is for. Asking helps reduce the risk of an error. It could be a drug you usually take but from a different manufacturer, or it could be an error. Before any procedure, including giving medications, staff should check your ID bracelet to ensure you are the right patient.

5- Take care to prevent falls.

Every year, up to 1 million patients fall while in the hospital. If you have been warned not to get up on your own, don’t, especially if it’s your first time out of bed. It is easy to become dizzy and lose your balance. If you can get out of bed alone, do so carefully and slowly. Sit on the side of your bed, letting your feet dangle for a few minutes. Then slowly rise from the bed. Always wear footwear with a grip. Socks and bare feet can slip easily. If you have a walker or cane, use it. Don’t rely on furniture, especially furniture with wheels, to support you.

6- Move to reduce blood clot risk.

Prolonged bed rest can lead to blood clots in some people. If you are on bed rest, move your legs as much as possible. Stretch them, point your toes, and move your feet in circles. Get out of bed as much as possible as soon as you can.

7- Protect your skin.

Another issue associated with prolonged bed rest or sitting in a chair for too long is possible skin breakdown and pressure ulcers. These can be very painful and can become infected. Change your position or shift your weight as often as possible. Mention any redness or soreness on your skin to your nurse so it can be checked and monitored.

8- Have an advocate.

If possible, have a friend or relative with you who can speak up if you can’t or don’t understand something. Be sure it is noted in your files that this person can speak on your behalf. Privacy rules prevent staff from discussing issues with someone else otherwise.

You are part of your healthcare team. By knowing these tips and by speaking up if you don’t know or understand something about your care, you can help reduce your risk of hospital-related infections or injuries. To learn more about healthcare-acquired infections, please visit Sepsis and HAIs, part of the Sepsis and… library.