On March 11th, The World Health Organization
(WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) to be a global pandemic. As
the days have passed and COVID-19 has crept its way into each of our lives, so
too has fear. Fear of what we don’t know, and fear of what we do know. But there came a moment for each of us, when
we had to transition from a fear that was paralyzing to a fear that moved us
forward into action.
Since the outset, the Public Health Agency of Canada
has stepped into action working to ensure that their preparedness and response
measures are appropriate and adaptable, and based on the latest science of the
evolving situation. The
Canadian Patient Safety Institute is also
responding to the pandemic and working through their broad network of
healthcare system partners to gather and share information about how patients
and community members can stay safe.
As well, infection prevention and control
professionals (ICPs) have been working tirelessly to prevent the transmission
of the virus to patients and healthcare workers. While there is much that we
don’t know about this coronavirus, we do know how it is transmitted. COVID-19
is transmitted through respiratory droplets and by
hands that have come in contact with the virus and subsequently touch the
mouth, nose or eyes. With this knowledge, ICPs are brought back to the basic
tenets of infection prevention in healthcare settings: hand hygiene with
appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE). With no known cure, treatment or vaccine—it’s
our only defense.
In response to the pandemic, the WHO has
established the following recommendations for prevention: diligent
hand hygiene with an alcohol-based hand rub if available and if your hands are
not visibly dirty, or with soap and water if hands are dirty; droplet and
contact precautions (mask, eye protection, gown, and gloves) at all times for
suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19; and avoid touching the eyes, nose
Performing high-quality hand hygiene is more
important than ever and proper
technique must be used when applying alcohol-based hand
rub or handwashing with soap and water. Ongoing education, vigilant monitoring
and immediate feedback for lapses and slips will strengthen prevention
Appropriate use of PPE is also key is preventing
spread; however, it’s important to note that PPE reduces, but does not
eliminate, contamination of skin and clothing with pathogens. And high-risk exposures, such as caring for
patients with COVID-19, heighten concerns for contamination and transmission.
The potential for inadvertent contamination of skin and clothing despite use of
PPE may be particularly high during removal of contaminated PPE1,
and education strategies for donning and doffing are critical in this pandemic.
It is for this reason that Health
Canada recommends paying particular attention while
removing PPE. As with hand hygiene, ongoing education, vigilant monitoring and
immediate feedback on donning
and doffing PPE can reduce contamination and help
prevent transmission of this virus.
These are frightening and exhausting times for
everyone, and certainly there are many approaches to prevent the spread of this
coronavirus in our healthcare facilities, but as diverse as those approaches
might be, they will all begin with the basic tenets of infection prevention:
meticulous hand hygiene and appropriate use of PPE.
The valuable role of ICPs has been brought to
the forefront through this pandemic, but they cannot do this alone. It is imperative
for all of us on the frontlines of patient care to share the responsibility of
infection prevention. Let’s not be afraid to speak up and provide a gentle
reminder when we see an inadvertent slip in technique or protocol. We need to build strong systems on our
frontlines to keep ourselves and each other safe so that we can be there for
our patients and our families at home.
Cleaning your hands has never mattered more. Click on The Canadian Patient Safety Institute’s Stop! Clean Your Hands Day: it is a great way to receive updated information about how to remind patients, staff and visitors on the importance of hand hygiene.
GOJO cares deeply about protecting public
health and about getting products to all of the places and people where they
are needed; we are being called upon during this difficult time to help
safeguard those working so hard on the front lines to help keep us all healthy
and safe, and we are working with our distributor partners to prioritize
healthcare facilities. More than ever, we are all committed to our GOJO Purpose
of Saving Lives and Making Life Better Through Well-Being Solutions and are
proud to be playing a vital role at this challenging and dynamic time.
Stay well my fellow healthcare professionals,
Lori Moore, MPH, BSN, RN, CPPS
Clinical Educator- GOJO Industries, Inc.
ME, Kundrapu S, Thota P, et al. Contamination of health care personnel during
removal of personal protective equipment. JAMA Intern Med.