The Role of the Clinical Environment of Care in Preventing Healthcare-Associated InfectionsPosted on by
Guest Author: J. Hudson Garrett Jr., PhD, MSN, MPH, FNP, PLNC, CSRN, CHESP, VA-BC, FACDONA
Industry Liaison, Board of Directors
Association for the Healthcare Environment (AHE),
A Personal Membership Group of the American Hospital Association
Today, I’m here at CDC with the Association for the Healthcare Environment (AHE) to talk with CDC about critical issues around environmental infection control. In today’s hospitals and healthcare settings, environmental service professionals play an increasingly integral role in maintaining a safe environment for patients — and for the people who visit and work there. We have always relied on the ability to have effective reprocessing and clean surfaces in the environment of care; unfortunately, today this a growing challenge as we are faced with organisms that are difficult to kill and impossible to treat. As such, this makes environmental cleaning more and more important for the safety of our patients.
In fact, recent scientific evidence shows that the clinical environment of care can serve as a reservoir for growth of pathogens and even more often becomes transiently contaminated, facilitating the spread of pathogens. While hand hygiene remains the most important infection prevention and control measure, the role of the care environment in preventing the transmission of harmful pathogens is becoming increasingly clear. Germs such as Clostridium difficile, hepatitis B virus, methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and emerging threats such as Ebola virus cannot thrive when we have taken proper steps to remove them from the environment. Through training, education, process improvement, and by employing the latest in evidence-based practices cleaning and disinfection practices, environmental services teams can ensure the environment is safe for patients and not conducive to the spread of these dangerous pathogens.
Resources are available to help facilities in targeting and sustaining zero healthcare-associated infections. CDC’s Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities and AHE’s Practice Guidance for Environmental Cleaning 2nd Edition both highlight the implementation of evidence-based practices.
Today’s environmental services team is asked to: collaborate across multiple disciplines, ensure maintenance of a clean and sanitary environment; manage vital functions such as disposal of regulated medical waste, handling of linens, and transporting of patients; and serve as both patient and safety advocates. Now more than ever, the environmental services team needs to be at the table with infection control and hospital leadership when it comes to providing a safe environment for clinical care.
Later this month, CDC’s Dr. Michael Bell will be presenting at the AHE annual conference where he will be discuss the changing role of clinical environmental services in caring for today’s patients. For more information about AHE, please visit www.ahe.org.