New York—January 14, 2013
“We need to be proactive not only to keep ourselves healthy, but to avoid transmitting illness if we’re sick,” said Eileen Finerty, RN, MS, CIC (certified in infection-control), director for infection control and occupational health at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York City.
Special Surgery has one of the lowest infection rates of any hospital in the country and has been commended by the New York State Department of Health. The infection rate refers to all infections acquired by patients in the hospital, not only viruses such as those that cause the flu.
Infection control in the health care setting is critical. Nationwide, hospital-acquired infections result in 100,000 deaths each year.
“We emphasize infection control as a best practice,” said Thomas P. Sculco, M.D., surgeon–in-chief at Hospital for Special Surgery, “and strive to maintain it at every level of patient care - from washing hands to a clean and safe environment for our patients in the operating room and the entire hospital.”
The hospital employs a combination of infection-control measures, according to Ms. Finerty. Some are highly sophisticated and others are basic good practices.
Strategies used by the hospital to keep germs in check can be adapted for use at home and in everyday life, according to Ms. Finerty. These practices include:
1 – Good hand hygiene using sanitizers.
Hospital: Hand sanitizers located all around the hospital have a sensor that dispenses foam without the need to touch it. The sensor detects hand motion and automatically releases foam.
What everyone can do: Carry around an alcohol-based liquid hand cleaner. Use about a tablespoon, rub it into your hands and let it dry. Do not wipe it off. Ms. Finerty carries a hand sanitizer in her purse at all times.
2 – Frequent hand-washing.
Hospital: Hospital staff are instructed to wash their hands often. Signs around the hospital say: “Good Hand Hygiene Saves Lives.”
What everyone can do: Wash your hands for at least 30 seconds. You can sing “Happy Birthday” twice to get an idea of how long it should take. Work up a good lather and use friction.
3 – Good ventilation.
Hospital: Laminar flow in operating rooms employs special panels to direct air flow and provide the most sterile environment possible for the patient
What everyone can do: Open the windows and let in some fresh air to ensure adequate ventilation. A stagnant, stuffy environment causes germs to re-circulate around the house.
4– Controlling the spread of germs.
Hospital: The entire staff is trained in infection-control measures, such as coughing into a tissue and not into one’s hand. Boxes of tissues are located throughout the hospital. Staff are encouraged to stay home if they have a contagious illness.
What everyone can do: Carry tissues and dispose of them properly and immediately after coughing or sneezing. Then wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer. You can also cough into your sleeve to avoid getting germs on your hand that can later be spread.
In general, when you’re outside or at work, or if you have come in contact with a sick person, avoid touching your face. Germs on your hand get you sick when they enter your body through your eyes, nose or mouth, or through a break in the skin. Don’t go to work if you’re sick.
5 – Cleaning and disinfecting.
Hospital: HSS housekeeping staff is especially diligent about cleaning. The routine entails cleaning, sweeping and disinfecting surfaces, getting into cracks and crevices where bacteria can grow.
What everyone can do: Make it a habit to clean and disinfect surfaces, especially in the kitchen and bathroom. Be especially wary about kitchen sponges, which can harbor large amounts of bacteria. “When in doubt, throw it out,” Ms. Finerty advises.
If someone in the household is sick, regularly disinfect frequently-touched surfaces in the home. Telephones, sinks, toilets, counters, doorknobs and toys should be cleaned with warm water and dish detergent or with a household disinfectant.
6 – Flu shots.
Hospital: All staff are encouraged to get a flu shot, and the hospital has a high rate of compliance.
What everyone can do: Get a flu shot to lower the possibility of getting sick. It protects you and those around you.
7 – A separate room.
Hospital: Patients who have a contagious infection are given a private room.
What everyone can do: When a family member is sick, try to give the individual a separate space or room, and maintain a sanitary environment by disposing of tissues in a separate plastic trash bag. An uncovered cough can spray droplets and germs into the air so ask the sick person to cover a cough with tissues. Try to stay at least three feet away from people who are sick and coughing. The CDC recommends having sick children place their chin on your shoulder so they will not cough in your face.
8 – Diligence and good habits.
Hospital: Signs, staff training and hand sanitizers around the facility remind hospital employees of the importance of proper hygiene.
What everyone can do: Remember to maintain good practices and develop beneficial habits that will help keep you and those around you healthy.
About HSS | Hospital for Special Surgery
HSS is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. At its core is Hospital for Special Surgery, nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics (for the ninth consecutive year) and No. 3 in rheumatology by U.S.News & World Report (2018-2019). Founded in 1863, the Hospital has one of the lowest infection rates in the country and was the first in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center four consecutive times. The global standard total knee replacement was developed at HSS in 1969. An affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College, HSS has a main campus in New York City and facilities in New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Long Island and Westchester County regions of New York State. In 2017 HSS provided care to 135,000 patients and performed more than 32,000 surgical procedures. People from all 50 U.S. states and 80 countries travelled to receive care at HSS. In addition to patient care, HSS leads the field in research, innovation and education. The HSS Research Institute comprises 20 laboratories and 300 staff members focused on leading the advancement of musculoskeletal health through prevention of degeneration, tissue repair and tissue regeneration. The HSS Global Innovation Institute was formed in 2016 to realize the potential of new drugs, therapeutics and devices. The culture of innovation is accelerating at HSS as 130 new idea submissions were made to the Global Innovation Institute in 2017 (almost 3x the submissions in 2015). The HSS Education Institute is the world’s leading provider of education on the topic on musculoskeletal health, with its online learning platform offering more than 600 courses to more than 21,000 medical professional members worldwide. Through HSS Global Ventures, the institution is collaborating with medical centers and other organizations to advance the quality and value of musculoskeletal care and to make world-class HSS care more widely accessible nationally and internationally.