By Michelle Daniels
Vice President - Product Strategy, Development and Administration
Encompass Group, LLC
Kristy Warren Director,
Clinical Resources Encompass Group, LLC
With current COVID-19 variants still affecting many across the US, Nurse to patient ratios and staffing create challenges. Healthcare professionals are driven to seek additional strategies to work together to keep the high number of patients and dedicated staff members safe and comfortable during these challenging times.
Balance and preparation are the keys to success
To thwart the rise inpatients seeking care, it's more important than ever to have the right people in the right place with the right tools at the right time. Begin by assessing your nursing team to determine how they feel best positioned and protected; when nurses feel safe and comfortable, your patients will benefit.
Ensure that all clinical teams have an ample supply of the necessary tools to deliver care. The stress of the pandemic on the supply chain has quickly identified those absolutely necessary supplies versus those that might be preferred. When hospital budgets are already stretched thin, it’s important to focus on the more essential solutions that clinical teams feel they must have when balancing inventory levels. This will help your clinicians spend their time caring for those in need instead of being responsible for or concerned about supply management.
Of course, having the right outlook makes a huge difference. When your clinical teams feel appreciated, they are more likely to have a positive outlook. Practice reward and recognition for those that go above and beyond the call of duty. Invariably, a positive outlook will rub off on your patients.
Reusables versus disposables: each has value in infection control
Speaking of the right tools at the right time, there are areas in your facility that may benefit from reusable products and others that disposables may be a more practical option. For example, in departments where there is a large amount of turnover of patients (such as the emergency department) or an increased risk of infection transmission, using disposable patient apparel, scrubs, isolation gowns, PPE, linens, and even patient warming products will likely benefit both your patients and staff.
However, reusable products may be most appropriate in areas where patient volumes are set or less versatile. If your facility has floors or units reusable apparel, and bedding should be a safe and comfortable fit for your patients and your staff.
A consideration would be to have your facility participate in a uniform apparel program, you will gain time-saving benefits from its ordering, shipping, and payment options, as well as management and tracking all while your staff have the benefits of being safe and comfortable in their apparel.
When infections like COVID-19 or the flu cause surges in your area, it’s important to have a sufficient supply and reliable source of apparel and linens to keep up with the spike in demand. How can you increase your odds? Choose items produced in U.S.-based or near-shore facilities. Products shipped from within our country or from close by are less likely to get caught up in lengthy supply chain delays.
The right apparel properties can increase infection prevention
Medical apparel and linen manufacturers are increasingly finding ways to make fabrics more resistant to the presence and transmission of bacteria and viruses. There are two primary benefits to outfitting your staff with apparel made using these fabrics or coatings:
- Antimicrobial apparel provides an additional level of protection for clinical staff who wear it as well as the patients for whom they care for
- Additionally, safeguard enables caregivers to experience less stress and anxiety about potential cross-contamination and exposure - for patients and staff.
For example, our META Scrubs, featuring a proprietary antimicrobial finish, have been independently tested and found resistant to two of the most frequently transmitted bacterial microbes: Staphylococcus and Klebsiella. In case you’re not familiar with the threat of these microorganisms, here’s a brief overview:
- Staphylococcus - Many people carry staph bacteria and never develop infections; those that do can get them from the bacteria sitting on their skin. These robust microbes also can be passed from person to person as well as via clothing or linens on which they’re living and can be life-threatening if they move deeper into the body2,
- Klebsiella - This “opportunistic” pathogen can cause a variety of infections, from UTIs to pneumonia to wound infections. It can be transmitted via skin contact with contaminated objects or surfaces such as medical equipment, Loofah sponges, and blood products. Hospitalized patients are at especially high risk for infections from this bacterium.3
Additional resources can help address future surges
Remember, there are additional measures you can take to help your hospital or health system cope with current or future infection surges. Supportive vendors can make all the difference in your ability to respond. Here are just a few of our offerings:
- Linen consulting services to help our customers maximize their linen utilization potential.
- Free CEU courses to keep nursing staff current in industry topics and meet licensure requirements.
- A clinical resources team to assist with of introducing, training, and implementing new products.
While these surges of patients in need of care may be taxing, healthcare professionals are resilient and up for the challenge when properly protected and set up for success with the necessary team, tools and outlook.
With good planning, the best supplies, and ongoing education, along with the help of the right partners, you can successfully manage increased patient caseloads and keep healthcare-associated infections at bay.