October 15, 2012

October 15th -19th is International Infection Prevention Week. South Central Kansas Medical Center will be celebrating by educating patients, staff, and visitors on all of the things the hospital is doing to provide the best hospital experience possible.

"We use the best practices and Surgical Care Improvement Project (SCIP) measures along with other quality measures to prevent surgical site infections in our patients," said Kim Byers, RN - CIC, the medical center's infection control practitioner.

Surgery related infections are caused by one of two things; bacteria on the patient's own skin or sources within the healthcare environment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), healthcare-associated infections cost U.S. hospitals an estimated $28.4 to $45 billion each year.

While every hospital works to have zero infections, many risk factors for surgery related infections are things over which the physician and staff have no control.

"We continue to strive towards preventing every infection, however not all infections are preventable considering factors that increased the patient's risk for infection like diabetes, nicotine use, steroid use, obesity, malnutrition, a prolonged hospital stay, or MRSA carriage," Byers said.

Dr. Tyson Blatchford is the general surgeon for the medical center. He believes patients and family members play an important role in preventing infection when visiting a healthcare facility.

"There are several things a patient should do prior to surgery to help prevent an infection, including telling your doctor about other medical problems you may have, quitting smoking, not shaving with a razor near the surgical site, and showering the morning of surgery with a cleanser designed to reduce the amount of germs on your skin," Blatchford said.

Dr. Blatchford works to prevent his patient's from acquiring infections before he ever sees them in surgery. Precautions include selecting the correct antibiotic treatment to reduce the contamination to a level that doesn't overwhelm the patient's defenses and also protects against the body's own bacteria in the region of the procedure.

"Our anesthetists ensure that the antibiotic is given at the optimal time, within 30 minutes of the incision. They make sure to maintain the correct level of antibiotic throughout the procedure and redose if needed for longer operations," Blatchford said.

The CDC has published guidelines for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers to follow during surgery to prevent infections. The guidelines direct providers to:
Clean their hands and arms up to their elbows with an antiseptic agent just before the surgery.
If indicated, remove some of your hair immediately before your surgery using electric clippers if the hair is in the same area where the procedure will occur.
Wear special hair covers, masks, gowns, and gloves during surgery to keep the surgery area clean.
Clean the skin at the site of your surgery with a special soap that kills germs.

These guidelines are just the tip of the iceberg for what most facilities undergo to prevent surgical infections in their operating rooms. Additional precautions include monitoring both the patient's body temperature and blood glucose levels.

"In the OR suite many things take place to ensure you have the safest, most comfortable experience possible. Our nursing staff ensures that your body maintains a certain core temperature throughout the surgery. This is called 'normothermia'. Throughout your entire surgical stay you will be kept warm to decreases the incidence of surgical wound infections and shortens hospitalization. Also, if you are a diabetic patient your glucose level is closely monitored throughout your surgical stay and during the first 48 hours following surgery. Tight control of blood glucose levels during the operative period may lead to better outcomes in both diabetic and non-diabetic patients," Blatchford said.

The days following a surgery are just as critical in preventing infection. Important rules to follow include not allowing family and friends who visit to touch the wound or dressings, and to make sure you understand how to properly care for your wound before you leave the hospital. However, according to Dr. Blatchford, proper hand washing is the key to preventing infection.

"Your physician, nurses, family and friends should all clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rubs before and after visiting you. If you do not see them clean their hands, ask them to clean their hands. And be sure to clean your own hands both before and after caring for your wound," Blatchford said.

International Infection Prevention Week is only celebrated once a year, yet everyday SCKMC's healthcare team is focused on their patient's safety and care before, during, and after a procedure. According to Kim Byers the entire process is patient focused.

"Upon meeting us you will see that everything is about "you" our patient," Byers said.

Photo: The SCKMC Surgery team, along with Racquel Szabo PA-C, Dr. Perry Lin, and Dr. Tyson Blatchford, prepare for a case during International Infection Prevention Week.