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Nurses key to reduce bloodstream infections

February 19, 2015

Nurses are often ideally positioned to help implement new procedures, and ensure any changes in patient care are carried out to their full extent. 

According to recent guidelines from the Joint Commission, nurses are well positioned to stop dangerous and costly bloodstream infections, which are caused by improper placement of catheters in large veins in the neck, chest or groin.

Central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) are a problem for thousands of patients each year. This can often result in a longer stay in hospital, being readmitted into care, and increasing the cost of care for the organisation or individual.

Speaking about the guidelines, Dr Patricia Stone, centennial professor of health policy in nursing at Columbia University School of Nursing, said devastating bloodstream infections "don’t need to happen".

Dr Stone was part of a team that contributed to the best-practice guidelines issued by the Joint Commission and has published extensive research on preventing such infections.

“Nurses are on the front lines and can take advantage of their constant contact with patients and other caregivers to explain infection control techniques and help health facilities develop and enforce standards of care that have been proven effective against CLABSI,” she said.

As with sharps safety, education and training should be delivered to nurses to ensure they know the appropriate way of inserting the catheters to deliver potentially life-saving medicines and nutrients to some of the most vulnerable patients. Without proper insertion and maintenance, catheters can transmit deadly infections to the bloodstream.

Infection control training is vital for nurses, as is creating a "culture of patient safety", Dr Stone said, which can also include needlestick prevention and risk assessments. It is a nurse's background in education, that gives them the ability to be so important when it comes to helping colleagues embark on the right practices.

“These infections drive up healthcare costs, wasting resources that could be spent meeting so many other patient needs,” Dr Stone said. “The Joint Commission’s guidelines underscore the value of investing in nurses and making sure caregivers at the bedside have all the resources they need to keep patients safe.”

However, this beneficial position can also mean nurses are key healthcare professionals when it comes to implementing other changes, such as sharps safety. Anyone involved in the management of sharps safety or needlestick prevention knows the importance of ensuring that procedures are followed out on a grassroots level. 

With nurses so often being one of the first professionals who treats a patient, and often the one person that will see them the most throughout their stay, it's essential that all nurses in a hospital or medical setting are clear on sharps safety. This is especially important as it is nurses who will most often be tasked with withdrawing blood or attaching IVs. Although these may seem like mundane procedures, and they can feel it to nurses who do multiple ones a day, it's paramount that the professional does everything to protect themselves and the patient from harm.

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