Environmental cleaning is one of the most effective ways to maintain a safe and hygienic workplace in a healthcare setting. In hospitals and clinics, there is huge potential for contamination and the spread of illness due to how many patients pass through their doors every day in fact, approximately 1 in 10 patients who enter a hospital will contract a Healthcare Associated Infection (HAI) during their stay. Surfaces in common or high-traffic areas, like doorknobs, handles, and equipment, pose a particularly elevated risk when it comes to transmitting pathogens between patients, staff, and visitors.
Different types of bacteria can survive outside the body for varying lengths of time. As a rule of thumb, cold and flu viruses located on surfaces are infectious for 24 to 48 hours after being deposited and in a healthcare environment, that can be equivalent to hundreds if not thousands of people being exposed to said bacteria during that time frame. Factors that affect how long people can pick up the virus include how much of it was left on the surface, and the amount of humidity present in the surrounding environment (bacteria thrive in warm, humid areas).
Developing an effective environmental cleaning and hygiene approach will help you keep surfaces and common areas free of dangerous bacteria and reduce the spread of infection in the process. It's also important to perform these cleaning and sanitizing routines consistently and thoroughly for best results.
To begin, it's helpful to identify which surfaces and areas are most at risk of transmitting illnesses and bacteria between patients, staff, and others. Ask yourself the following questions to begin sorting different items and areas into high- and low-priority categories:
1. Is the surface high-touch (frequently comes into contact with people) or low-touch (rarely comes into contact with people)?
2. What goes on inside the room in question, i.e. exam room versus meeting room
3. How vulnerable are the patients that occupy the space in question?
By answering these questions, you will be able to create a cleaning approach and schedule that prioritises areas at the highest risk of spreading infection.
Not all bacteria and viruses are created equal; some require a specific sanitiser or disinfectant to be neutralized successfully. Here are a few pathogens commonly found in a hospital or clinic environment, and the best environmental cleaning agents to stop them from spreading.
Maintaining a clean and hygienic environment is an effort that must be tackled from all angles. From patient-facing equipment to the main cafeteria, it's important to be aware of the factors and activities that require specific attention.
Employees or cleaning staff dealing with any of the following situations should wear gloves and/or masks if necessary to further prevent the spread of pathogens, bacteria, and infections. Hands should also be washed after handling anything that may be associated with an infection risk.
Asking the right questions and understanding the best environmental cleaning approaches for your situation are the bedrock of a hygienic environment. Given how quickly disease can spread through a hospital or clinic, it is everyone's responsibility to contribute to the fight against infection.