Hand Hygiene & Infection Prevention
Healthcare-associated infections, which can occur in the blood, surgical sites, lungs or urine, are a major but preventable threat to patient safety. Protecting our patients, visitors and staff is a top priority for UCLA, and our goal is to have zero healthcare-associated infections. To ensure we do our best to prevent infections in patients, staff and visitors, we take several precautions. We invite you to partner with us and participate in these prevention efforts.
What we are doing
The most important way we prevent healthcare-associated infections is by washing our hands. Healthcare workers and visitors should wash their hands on entering and after leaving the patient room. Hand washing may be done with alcohol hand rub or antibacterial soap and water — both are acceptable.
Germs (bacteria) such as S. aureus (“Staph,” including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA) live on our skin. To protect patients against infections, we apply a cleansing bath treatment (chlorhexidine gluconate also known as CHG) to the skin daily to appropriate patients.
Depending on the symptoms or infection(s) you have, our healthcare workers will at times need to use gowns, gloves and/or masks when they enter your room to help stop the spread of germs. You will have a sign on your door if healthcare workers need to use these special “isolation precautions,” and your team will explain this to you. Your visitors may also be required to use these precautions. The four main isolation precaution types include:
- Contact isolation (RED sign): gloves and gowns
- Contact-spore isolation (PINK sign): gloves and gowns
- Droplet isolation (ORANGE sign): surgical mask
- Airborne isolation (GREEN sign): special respirator mask (N95)
For all of these isolation precautions, it is important to wash your hands when you enter the room and when you leave the room.
If you have a urine or blood catheter in place, your healthcare team takes special precautions to keep your catheters infection-free. They have special procedures for placing and maintaining the catheter, will frequently assess the catheter site for symptoms of infection and will remove it as soon as possible. If you have questions about how long you will need these devices, ask your team.
To keep you safe from the germs that live in the environment, including the hospital equipment, our Environmental Services workers will clean your room every day, providing your medical condition permits. They will sometimes use ultraviolet (UV) light to disinfect rooms after patients leave the hospital.
What you can do
You and your visitors play an important role in preventing the spread of germs.
Hand washing for patients and visitors
Washing your hands is the best way to kill germs and stop the spread of infections. You should wash your hands after using the bathroom, after touching a bandage and before eating. Your visitors should also wash their hands with alcohol hand rub or soap and water before entering and after leaving your room, and after touching body fluids or bandages. If you are on “droplet” or “airborne” isolation precautions, please make sure your visitors follow instructions about wearing either a surgical mask or a special respirator mask (N95). Ask your nurse or physician if you have any questions.
How to wash your hands
You can use either the provided alcohol hand rub or the provided soap and water. The alcohol hand rub is very effective for hand washing and should be rubbed until your hands are dry. Soap and water is preferred when your hands are visibly soiled or if you have C. difficile (C. diff) diarrhea. When you wash your hands with soap and water, scrub them for 15 seconds, making sure you wash your fingertips and between your fingers.
Other ways to prevent healthcare-associated infections
- You are a member of your healthcare team. Speak up if you have concerns!
- Keep your room clean and free of clutter. If your room looks dirty, ask to have it cleaned.
- If you have a blood or urine catheter, ask your healthcare team if you still need it.
- Please ask friends and family with a fever, cough, runny nose or cold symptoms not to visit while they are sick.
- Remind your visitors to get vaccinated against the flu and other infections.
If you have a concern, feel free to ask the following or any other questions:
If you have not seen your healthcare workers wash their hands with the alcohol hand rub or soap and water, ask them to do so.
“I didn’t see you wash your hands. Please wash them.”
If you have a catheter in your vein or bladder, tell your nurse if it becomes loose or painful. Also ask each day when it can be removed.
“Do I still need this catheter today? Why?”
Ask your provider if you need any shots or vaccines.
“Should I be receiving any shots or vaccines to protect me during my stay or after I go home?”
If you think that your room or the equipment in your room looks dirty, ask to have it cleaned.
“This looks dirty. Can someone please clean this?”
If you have a bandage (also called a “dressing”), let your nurse know if it gets wet, bloody, loose or feels uncomfortable.
“Can you please check my bandage?”