Ask the Expert: Eileen Finerty, Registered Nurse, Answers Your Questions on Infection Prevention in Hospitals

by Eileen Finerty
Operating room at Hospital for Special Surgery

Q1. I’m concerned about getting an infection from hip surgery. What does the hospital do to prevent infection?

At HSS, we take a number of steps to reduce the risk of infection:

  • Our surgeons perform hip replacements in specially designed operating rooms and wear protective suits and hoods
  • Our anesthesiologists use epidural (spinal) anesthesia
  • We use antibiotics judiciously
  • We monitor and report hand hygiene practices
  • We remove urinary catheters as early as possible, most by post-operative day 1 or 2
  • HSS is a Magnet Nursing facility. Our OR Nurses are specially trained in orthopedic surgical nursing. Many are certified in orthopedic nursing.

Q2. Do you recommend frequent use of hand sanitizer when visiting a patient in a hospital for several days? Or is washing hands with soap just as effective in preventing infection?

We recommend hand hygiene be performed before and after contact with the patient or their environment and after eating or using the restroom. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers as well as soap and water are readily available throughout most hospitals and are equally effective in preventing infection. We do recommend washing with soap and water when hands are visibly soiled, or when recommended by Infection Control.

Q3. Do surgeons at HSS wear protective suits for all surgeries or do they wear the suits for certain types of surgeries?

Surgeons at HSS wear protective suits for all total hip and total knee replacement surgeries.

Q4. What can patients do before surgery to reduce the risk of infection?

Before surgery, patients should get vaccinated for influenza and pneumonia, if indicated by their physician. They should follow their pre-op instructions including cleaning their surgical site before coming to the hospital. Additional instructions provided by their physician should be followed such as quitting smoking and maintaining good glucose control if they are diabetic.

Q5. What steps does HSS take to maintain low infection rates?

HSS observes best practices and educates physicians, nurses and ancillary staff about infection prevention and control. Infection Prevention partners with all departments regarding prevention of infection including Nursing, Central Sterile Processing, Environmental Services, Laboratory and Quality Management.

The following factors contribute to the low infection rate at HSS:

  • Joint replacements are performed skillfully and quickly, with an average surgical time of 1.5 hours. The shorter the surgery, the less chance there is of infection.
  • Almost all joint replacements are conducted under regional anesthesia, which reduces the chance of having a surgical infection by 50%
  • Each of our uniquely-designed operating rooms are equipped with a high-tech air filtration system designed especially for surgery, which directs the air flow away from the operation, reducing the risk of infection, as it simultaneously cleanses and replenishes the air
  • Surgeons wear specially-designed hooded protective suits to maintain the strictest sterile environment in the operating rooms for all total hip and total knee replacement surgeries
  • A larger and more contemporary central sterile supply department has separate elevators dedicated to transporting sterile and non-sterile supplies to and from surgical suites. Automated state-of-the-art washing disinfectors and a wide variety of cleaning tools help us to achieve maximum cleanliness.
  • We clean our hands before administering care either with soap and water or a special antibacterial hand gel
  • One important way to prevent infection is to administer the right antibiotic at the right time before surgery

Eileen Finerty is a registered nurse and Director of Nursing for Infection Control and Occupational Health at Hospital for Special Surgery.

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The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.

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