Keeping Your Family Safe After Your Day on the Frontlines
You have followed all of your hospital’s procedures, donned and doffed PPE at the right times and the right places, washed your hands vigorously, and managed the unrelenting tsunami of patients needing care. You have armed yourself with the most up-to-date information from reputable sources, supported dedicated first responders, and adhered to manufacturers’recommendations to mitigate shortages of indispensable PPE.
Now it is time to go home.
As sterile processing department professionals, or any hospital worker for that matter, we run the risk of bringing the day’s work with highly contagious COVID-19 patients home with us. By taking the proper precautions, however, we can keep ourselves and our families healthy, and create a bit of safe space for us to unwind after an adrenaline-filled day.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, OSPECS has expanded its PEER program (Prepare, Examine, Educate, Reform) from the professional setting to the personal to help frontline workers manage the risks of the transition from hospital to home.
Here are some of our top recommendations for preparedness at home.
Stay up to date
In the hospital, preparedness comes from being aware of best practices, procedures, and regulations, and making sure that your team is aware, too. At home, find the facts that will guide your day-to-day activities and codify your personal safety procedures with your family or roommates.
Be sure to drill down to your local level when seeking information. Has your state instituted new orders? Has your town proclaimed stricter mandates than the state or federal government? Which retailer has announced a sick worker—and possible exposure to customers? Your supermarket may even have a new process for picking up a loaf of bread.
Turn on emergency push notifications from trusted news sources. Sign up for your town, city, or state text updates, if available.
Prepare the information you and your immediate circle might need in case one of you falls ill: emergency contact information for the important people in your life, doctors’ phone numbers, and any medical directives. Establish a check-in circle to check in on those friends or family members who may be isolating alone.
Prevent contamination at home
Your training and experience in sterile processing has prepared you for combatting contamination at home. While your personal procedures may not be as strict as sterilizing peel pouches in the kitchen (please do not), the steps you take can do a lot to prevent the spread of disease.
Wash your hands
The SPD technical manual describes hand hygiene as the most significant step to reduce infections in the hospital. At home, the guideline is no different, especially in light of CDC studies that suggest that COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person via respiratory droplets when a contaminated person speaks, coughs, or sneezes, or when an uninfected person touches a contaminated surface and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. Two basic handwashing methods are recommended to reduce the risk of infection and the spread of microorganisms:
Soap and water. The five-step process recommended by the CDC is a methodical approach to something many of us do on autopilot. To be most effective, handwashing should be done as follows: wet hands with running water, lather by rubbing with soap, scrub your hands for 20 seconds, rinse under clean water, and dry.
Alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR). ABHR, or hand sanitizers, are most effective at a concentration of 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol alcohol and should only be used when there is no visible soil on the hands. To use ABHR correctly, apply the gel to the hands, rub all the hand surfaces and fingers for 20 seconds, and allow to air dry.
Disinfect frequently used or high-risk surfaces
High-touch surfaces. Use a safe disinfectant solution to disinfect all doorknobs, water faucets, countertops, tables, remote controls, keys, and other frequently touched surfaces.
Cell phone. Consider your cell phone an extension of your hand and disinfect it regularly with a disinfecting wipe. Refer to manufacturer’s instructions prior to disinfecting your phone. Never bring your phone into the SPD or decontamination area.
Other electronics. Sanitize your home computer, tablets, keyboards, mouse, and home office chair regularly.
Wash your clothes. Immediately remove and launder clothing worn outside while shopping or at work. Use the highest temperature available and do not overload the washer or dryer to allow the water and heat to circulate.
Sanitize frequently touched surfaces like the gear shift, steering wheel, radio buttons, seat controls, and window controls. Sanitize hands before and after refueling your car.
Payment methods. Use a credit card instead of cash and wipe the card with a disinfecting wipe before placing it back in your wallet. Better yet, use contactless payment options on your card or mobile device.
Grocery shopping. Wash fruits and vegetables under clean water or with a mixture of vinegar and lemon. Avoid washing produce with soap because it can leave residue that is unsafe to consume. If you use reusable shopping bags, ensure they are washable, and wash them immediately after use.
Prepare for potential affliction from COVID-19
Despite the most stringent adherence to CDC and government guidance, you or someone in your home may fall ill, so you must be sure that you have the necessary provisions, procedures, and tools in place prior to quarantining for an extended period of time.
Consider purchasing at least two weeks of nutritious pantry staples like rice, beans, and other canned goods, as well as frozen produce and shelf-stable milks. Confirm that you have a medicine cabinet stocked with a thermometer and preventive and curative medication.
Keep tabs on the ever-changing list of COVID-19 symptoms and reach out to your medical professional if you or someone you love begins exhibiting any of them.
Above all, maintain the readiness you practice at work at home. It can save lives.