Prevention key to combatting nursing home infections
Infection prevention is a critical priority for nursing homes. Staff in these facilities must implement strong infection control practices to protect their patients – from limiting catheterizations to offering easy access to hand sanitizer, and all things in between.
“We collect infection prevention data and utilize this information to assess patient needs, plan of care, and ongoing staff education,” says Dr. Todd Gephart, medical director at Advocate Sherman West Court, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility in Elgin, Ill. “This data is also provided to a national data base for comparison with state and national averages.”
As people age, skilled nursing or long-term care facilities often prove a good option for around-the-clock care, experts agree. But, a new study shows nursing home infection rates are on the rise, suggesting more must be done to protect patients from otherwise preventable complications.
The Columbia University School of Nursing study, which examined infections in U.S. nursing homes over a five-year period, found increased rates for pneumonia, urinary tract infections (UTIs), viral hepatitis, septicemia, wound infections, and multiple drug-resistant organisms (MDROs).
“At Sherman West Court, we have protocols in place to reduce the risks of these types of infections,” says Angela Lackowski, assistant administrator at Sherman West Court, a 112-bed facility that offers short-term rehabilitation and long-term care options. “Our infection rates are lower than state and national averages, and we consistently strive to improve these rates.”
In addition to collecting data for internal use and a comparison for state and national averages, the Illinois Department of Public Health inspects nursing homes’ infection prevention policies and activities, and makes recommendations.
UTIs are the most common infection in nursing homes, according to the study, and can be vastly prevented by reducing the use of catheters, among other things.
At Sherman West Court, if a patient is admitted to the facility with a catheter, staff determines whether there is justification for its use, and creates a plan for removal. Sherman West Court posts a 5.2 percent average for urinary tract infections compared to the state and national averages of 5.6 and 6 percent, respectively.
“If someone admits to us with a catheter, we obtain a physician order for removal as soon as possible to prevent a possible infection,” Lackowski says. “If it is medically necessary and can’t be removed, we must justify and document as to why it is staying in.”
MDRO infection prevalence is also on the rise, according to the study. Those infections are largely prevented through screenings and isolation to prevent the spread of bacteria like C. difficile and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
The majority of patients at Sherman West Court come from Elgin-based Advocate Sherman Hospital, where they are screened for MDROs.
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