You have been admitted to the hospital for surgery. You and your family or friends may have many feelings, like anxiety or nervousness, about the surgery. Rest assured that the hospital staff has standards in place to ensure that your stay during surgery is a safe one.
Hospitals follow safety and quality measures that are set by government organizations, researchers, and expert panels. These measures require hospitals to adopt safety techniques and procedures; report on how well they are implementing these procedures; and regularly train hospital staff. Here are some measures that the hospital staff will take to prevent surgical errors and infection during your hospital stay and surgery.
What the Hospital Staff Will Do to Prevent...
Patient Identification Errors
Receiving the correct surgery and care means making sure that your doctors, nurses, and others on your healthcare team know who you are. This means having your correct name, telephone number, and other unique identification on record. Hospitals have standards to:
Identify each patient with the treatment or service intended for him or her
Match the treatment or service to the specific patient
One way the hospital staff will enforce these standards is by using at least two forms of patient identifiers. Having at least two forms when giving medicines, collecting blood samples, and performing surgery will decrease the chance of mistakes in patient care.
Along with correct patient identifiers, the hospital staff will make sure that all important information is collected prior to your surgery. This is called preprocedure verification. During this time, they will make sure that all information and equipment needed for your surgery are available. They will also make sure that the information and equipment are correctly matched to your patient identifiers and that they have reviewed the information among themselves and with you.
Doing surgery on the wrong part of the body can be a terrible mistake. Your surgical team will take careful actions to mark the specific site on your body where surgery will be done.
Hospitals have also adopted many standard procedures to help prevent infection during surgery. You may notice many of these techniques during your stay. If you are concerned about a technique to prevent infection, speak up. Ask your doctor about how they will prevent infection. Regular and thorough hand washing by hospital staff is one of the most important aspects of infection prevention.
The hospital staff will do the following to help prevent infection:
Have a specially trained and dedicated infection control staff
Regularly educate all surgeons and staff on infection control measures
Vaccinate and treat personnel for exposure to infection at all times
Implement computer-assisted decision support and reminders that help doctors know when and how much antibiotic or other medicine to give you
Perform a 'surgical scrubbing' of the arms and forearms
Use an antiseptic on your skin
Remove hair from your body only if needed and in the most sterile manner (such as clipping or depilatory cream, razors are prohibited)
Give you prophylactic antibiotics within 1-2 hours
Wear special gowns, masks, gloves, and hair covers that act as a barrier to microorganisms
Keep the surgical area sterile or 'free of germs' by using special sterile drapes and other antimicrobial barriers
Limit the number of people coming into and out of the operating room
Keep the operating room at a warm temperature to reduce infection risk
Keep the surgery time as short as possible
Discontinue antibiotics within 24-48 hours after surgery
Control your blood glucose levels
Minimize catheter use and duration
Keep the main wound covered with sterile dressing for 24-48 hours
Discontinue IVs as soon as possible
Use sterile techniques when handling tools and changing wound dressings or catheters, such as:
Wear a mask
Unfold supplies in an ordered manner on a sterile surface
Carefully put on gloves
Other Steps You Can Take
The hospital staff will follow strict guidelines so that your surgery and hospital stay are successful. However, there are things you can do as well to lower your risk of infection. Lifestyle factors, such as smoking, can actually increase your risk of infection. Consider these good habits and lifestyle changes:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infection control in healthcare settings. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dhqp/. Accessed December 29, 2009.
DynaMed Editorial Team. Surgical wound infection prevention. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Last updated December 14, 2009. Accessed December 31, 2009.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a