Did you know that 1 in 3 million serious infections occur every year in nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities? Before COVID-19, 380,000 nursing home residents died due to infection annually. 40% of nursing homes were cited for poor infection control practices which directly lead to the spread of skin infections, gastrointestinal disease, and influenza. Why are these practices being neglected?
Nurses are the key factor to infection control in nursing facilities. Since January 2020 roughly 236,000 caregivers have left the healthcare field, leaving the remaining workers with an increased level of work and stress. 2 years into the pandemic US nurses report feeling stressed, frustrated, exhausted, overwhelmed, and undervalued. All of these factors paired with nurses experiencing incivility from other people in the workplace are leading to simple infection control practices being overlooked.
Simple practices such as hand washing are imperative for preventing infection control in nursing homes. High stress levels and increased workloads can be key factors to why these simple practices are overlooked, and they are directly correlated to the lack of nurses in healthcare facilities.
Simple changes regarding these simple hygiene practices can make a significant difference. Amidst the pandemic, not only were nurses foregoing handwashing and other simple practices, they were also put in a position where they physically could not properly use PPE. Nurses felt unsafe when using PPE because they were told to reuse old equipment. With 80% of nurses experiencing PPE shortages, it was the only option for some, but it contributed to the spread of infection overall. Ensuring that nurses are able to have the proper PPE and disinfecting supplies can lead to a decrease in infections spreading throughout nursing facilities.
It is also important to make sure that nurses are properly trained when it comes to infection control procedures. While basic procedures such as hand washing may seem like common sense, it can be difficult to remember when these nurses are dealing with triple their workload. Ensuring that nurses have the proper support and training to handle the increased stress and work, it can lead to less instances of simple practices being forgotten.
Overall it is most important to ensure that nurses are supported in their facilities. There is an overall staffing shortage in the healthcare field, and it is leading to severe consequences in our most vulnerable groups. Making sure nurses are feeling supported and are able to handle their extra work can lead to positive changes.