For hospital environmental services (EVS), being well-versed in infection prevention and infection control is vital to their safety and well-being and that of hospital patients, staff, and visitors. However, not all hospital cleaning services workers realize the considerable difference between the two infection related terms. While there are protocols that involve both infection prevention and control, it is vital for EVS for hospitals to understand the difference. With this in mind, below are a few quick scenarios to test your knowledge. In the following cases, is the action aimed at infection prevention or infection control?
- Cleaning and disinfecting a patient’s restroom with a single-use microfiber cloth and disposing of it before moving on to the next cleaning task.
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces after a confirmed case of COVID-19 has been reported in the facility.
- Putting on PPE before cleaning up a blood spill in the emergency department.
- Washing your hands before and after using the restroom.
- Washing your hands after handling the bedlinens of a patient with a confirmed case of MRSA or C. diff.
If you scored 100% (see below), you probably understand the difference between the two. But keep reading as some of the following information may surprise you. If you didn’t score so well, don’t be disheartened. You’d be surprised how often the two terms are used interchangeably, including by EVS providers and other hospital cleaning services staff.
Infection prevention includes actions and precautions taken to prevent an infection or infectious outbreak before one has occurred. Infection prevention actions are proactive. Some examples of infection prevention for EVS for hospitals workers include:
- Wearing PPE when no known infection is present
- Staying up to date on immunizations
- Following proper EVS for hospitals standard operating cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
One of the most significant aims of infection prevention in a hospital is to reduce the potential spread of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), which cause an estimated 1.7 million infections and 99,000 deaths annually.
Infection control includes reactionary measures taken to stop or slow the spread of a known, existing infection or infectious outbreak. Examples of infection control measures often taken by EVS providers include:
- Monitoring and testing health symptoms
- Isolating from others if an infection is detected
- Contact tracing to identify others that may have been infected by an infected person(s)
- Following cleaning and disinfecting protocols recommended for where confirmed cases, such as COVID-19, have been identified.
The pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 is a prime example of when infection control reigned paramount.
Infection Prevention: Moving to the Forefront
The activities conducted for both infection prevention and infection control are vital to the health and safety of hospital patients, staff, visitors, and EVS provider teams. However, infection prevention is emerging as the clear favorite for fairly obvious reasons: Preventing infection from occurring is preferable to attempting to control it after the fact. This is why experts in these types of services for hospitals and other fields are increasingly referred to as infection preventionists or infection prevention specialists.
This highlights the healthy trend of favoring proactive actions to prevent the spread of infections before they occur, such as reducing the occurrence of HAIs. Even in the case of a pandemic such as COVID-19, gap analyses are—or should be—conducted to see where gaps in infection prevention may have occurred. EVS for hospitals teams are then educated and trained in protocols and procedures that can help prevent an outbreak from occurring.
That another pandemic will occur, many experts insist, is not a question of if, just when. So the task facing EVS providers and all hospital cleaning services is to develop and practice best-in-class infection prevention processes and protocols to help control the number and severity of future outbreaks.
Hospital Environmental Services Near Me
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Answers: 1. infection prevention, 2. infection control, 3. infection prevention, 4. infection prevention, 5. infection control (although an argument could be made that it is both).