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Three Ways to Prevent Staph and MRSA Infections in Hospital Rehab Departments

The risk associated with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has been decreasing in intensive care units lately. However, it and other staph infections have been increasing in rehab departments

This is troubling because these environments are crucial for patient recovery. Furthermore, infection preventionists owe it to their patients to provide a safe area for rehabilitation after an illness or injury. To do that, they need to be proactive in fighting against staph and MRSA infections. 

Let’s discuss three ways to prevent staph and MRSA infections in hospital rehab departments. 

Promote Hand Hygiene

Proper hand hygiene is a simple, but integral, practice in preventing infections. However, as the Word Health Organization (WHO) notes, adherence isn’t widely practiced in outpatient healthcare settings, such as outpatient rehab departments:

“The culture of infection prevention and control, including hand hygiene, does not seem to be well established among the highest priorities in outpatient care settings around the world.”

The WHO guide on infection prevention cites several studies showing a clear link between hand hygiene and infection prevention, though. A study of rehabilitation hospitals in France found a strong association between hand hygiene adherence and MRSA prevention. 

Another study compared inpatient units where hand sanitizer was introduced and units where it was not available. The results showed a 30 percent decrease in infection rates where hand sanitizer was introduced. The CDC’s Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings cites nine studies which demonstrated a relationship between improved adherence to hand hygiene and control of multidrug resistant organisms in inpatient settings, as well. 

Considering this, healthcare workers in rehab departments should have access to and regularly use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. The CDC recommends it because it protects against a broad range of pathogens and it increases compliance. 

The WHO recommends promoting the “My Five Moments” approach, which reminds health care workers of five essential moments when hand hygiene is required. They are:

  • Before touching a patient
  • Before a clean/aseptic procedure
  • After a body fluid exposure risk
  • After touching a patient
  • After touching a patient’s surroundings

Additionally, healthcare workers can hang signs promoting hand hygiene, conduct regular audits or surveys and set official policies to improve adherence. But they’re not the only ones who should be accountable. 

Patients and visitors should also be encouraged to take part in responsible hand hygiene. It’s especially important in outpatient settings where there are a number of patients, family members and healthcare workers going through the facility on a daily basis. 

Take Part in Continuing Education and Reporting

Infection prevention in rehabilitation facilities really needs to be proactive due to constant flow of people. Ideally, a facility should have one person specifically trained in infection prevention. 

Infection prevention policies should be developed and documented for all employees. However, simply setting policies isn’t good enough. They should be refined with evidence-based guidelines from organizations such as the CDC and the WHO. The policies should be reassessed on an annual basis, too. 

The CDC believes that ongoing education and competency-based training is critical for ensuring that infection prevention policies are understood and followed. It recommends training upon orientation, to be repeated annually to maintain competency. Competencies should be documented during each training session for accountability. 

Rehab departments also need to be up to date on any local, state and federal requirements for HAI monitoring, reportable diseases and outbreak reporting—which is particularly important in the case of MRSA.

Use Improved Medical Devices

Aside from patient contact, medical devices are another major way infection can be spread in rehab departments. In many cases, rehabilitation programs require the reuse of devices and equipment such as electrodes and heat packs. 

Unfortunately, there’s potential to spread bacteria during each use even when these devices are only used on the same patient. Research in the Hospital Pharmacist estimates the risk of death is seven times more likely for patients exposed to reusable medical devices. 

Reducing this risk comes down to using better, safer devices like the MicroBlock antimicrobial electrode. MicroBlock’s self-adhesive gel kills and inhibits the growth of bacteria on and around the electrode. Independent testing shows its antimicrobial gel is more than 99 percent effective in reducing MRSA bacteria. It’s also effective against E. Cloacae (CRE), E. Coli (ESBL),  E. Faecalis (VRE), P. Aeruginosa and A. Baumannii (Multidrug Resistant). The gel demonstrated more than a 4 log10 reduction against each of these microorganisms, the standard for measuring infection prevention. 

Additionally, using heat packs with a better design like HydraHeat Packs can reduce the risk of MRSA or staph bacteria spreading. They have a non-porous outer layer which not only reduces the risk of bacterial colonization, but also allows rehabilitation therapy at an appropriate temperature.

These infection prevention practices are simple but effective. With them, healthcare workers can provide a safe environment and improve outcomes for their patients. Most importantly, these practices can stop patients from becoming another staph or MRSA statistic. 

If you would like to know more about the MicroBlock or would like a free sample of this innovative product, please contact us on our website.