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Breaking the Chain of Infection

March 05, 2019



There are many different germs that threaten the health and well-being of adults and children inside and outside of the healthcare setting. Germs spread in many way ways from person to person, and from objects to people.  A systematic approach to infection prevention and control where both patients and health care providers work together plays a vital role in protecting everyone who utilizes the health care system, in all its many forms.


When you go into a hospital or other healthcare setting to receive care, you are exposed to increased levels of pathogens and can become vulnerable to catching infections.  Transmission of infection requires at least three elements: a source of infecting microorganisms, a susceptible host and a means of transmission for bacteria and viruses. Essentially the spread of germs is a chain reaction, the best way to stop infections from spreading is to break the chain.



Implementation of the following strategies can help to break the chain of infection:


1. Champion the adoption and use of effective hand hygiene guidelines , including the WHO Five Moments in the U.S. or Canada’s Four Moments for Hand Hygiene. Provide training and education on every guideline, measuring compliance electronically as recommend by the Electronic Hand Hygiene Compliance Organization (EHCO).


2. Use proper hand washing and sanitizing techniques, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which suggests when and how to perform hand hygiene with practical advice on glove use, skin and nail care and use of sanitizers.


3. Choose hand hygiene products carefully, taking into account factors like the efficacy of the antiseptic agent, professionals’ acceptance of the product and product availability and access on every shift. Among the issues: Does the product work? Do staff understand, accept and use the product appropriately? Is the product available and easily accessible?   

4. Share performance gains. Healthcare professionals seek timely, accurate, evidence-based feedback on clinical and business performance. They’re eager to learn how their actions, including hand hygiene compliance, move the needle on patient safety, quality, infection control and infection prevention. The solution: Use daily huddles, meetings and celebratory events to report on hand hygiene performance improvements and celebrate hand hygiene ambassadors and champions.


5. Make hand hygiene fun! Hand hygiene should be encouraged and we have seen that facilities are the most successful with compliance increases when the staff work together to implement a proper hand hygiene culture. Position hand hygiene as an opportunity to contribute to a culture of compliance, quality, safety and joy in the workplace. For example, if you notice a coworker miss an opportunity, consider a secret phrase like “paws” or a gesture like an open palm to help professionals remind their colleagues to perform hand hygiene.

Infection prevention and control is a critical component of patient safety, as health care associated infections are by far the most common complication affecting hospitalized patients. The human and economic burdens that health care associated infections place health care system highlight the importance of an effective Infection Prevention and Control Program. The key takeaway is that germs are spread by touch and contact with contaminated surfaces and you can stop germs from spreading simply by interrupting the chain.


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