|Prevention and Control|
Nurses maintain the immediate health care environment. Because they provide care for a variety of patients, the risk of contamination from pathogenic microorganisms is increased. The practice of medical asepsis and standard precautions provides the nurse with techniques for destroying or containing pathogens and for preventing contamination to other people or to bedside materials and equipment.
One common example of medical asepsis involves the steps taken by the nurse to ensure that only clean linen is applied to each patient's bed. Clean linen remains in the clean linen cabinet until taken to the patient's room. The hands of the health care worker are washed before handling the clean linen. Unused bed linen from one patient's room cannot be returned to the clean linen cabinet and cannot be used for any other patient. This linen is considered soiled and placed in the soiled linen bag.
Many principles of infection control limit contact between the nurse and patient. Wearing barrier gloves for example, prevents direct physical contact through touch and may cause an individual to feel dirty or contaminated. Protective isolation, one form of isolation, limits contact with health care workers and visits from family and friends. Protective isolation often results in feelings of loneliness and interferes in needed emotional support.
The knowledgeable nurse balances the principles of asepsis, standard precautions and psychological support. Knowledge of the infectious agent allows the nurse to use protective measures without isolating the patient beyond what is necessary. The nurse recognizes the importance of interaction in maintaining psychological health and therefore provides appropriate contact within safe limits. For example, nurses wear barrier gloves when handling moist body secretions. However, holding a hand without the barrier glove to provide psychological comfort is, in most situations, an acceptable and important intervention as well. Psychological support for the patient in isolation comes in many forms, such as allowing an individual to express feelings about the constraints of isolation and providing information about the purpose of barrier techniques. The nurse provides psychological support through the development and maintenance of an effective nurse-patient relationship.
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