Healthcare News & Insights

Prevent hospital-acquired infections from catheters: Vital strategies

The threat of infection is everywhere in hospitals, but the presence of certain conditions or medical equipment may make patients more likely to contract an infection. New research shows that hospitalized patients with indwelling devices, such as catheters, may be at significant infection risk. 

Patients with catheters are 25% more likely to be diagnosed with a hospital-acquired infection, according to research published in the American Journal of Critical Care. Germs often enter patients’ bodies through catheters, which can quickly cause infection to spread, especially if the person’s immune system is already compromised.

Although there are guidelines hospitals should follow to minimize catheter use and remove them from patients as quickly as possible to prevent infection, they’re not always followed correctly due to several issues.

Problems with monitoring catheters

Per the research, many of these issues stem from communication gaps between clinicians. Doctors, nurses and assistants may have the best intentions when it comes to making sure patients with catheters are being carefully monitored. But in the hustle and bustle of communicating about patients with more critical illnesses, catheters may fall through the cracks.

Effectively monitoring the need for catheter removal can also be difficult to fit into the busy workloads of clinical staff.

When physicians make their rounds, they often have just a few minutes to speak to nurses and other staff, so only the high-priority issues make the cut. Plus nurses may be distracted themselves, having just rushed from another patient’s bedside to huddle with doctors about a different issue.

Technology-related barriers don’t help matters. It can be tough to enter details about a patient’s catheter status in an electronic health records (EHR) system when a nurse must click through multiple pages and screens to find the appropriate place for the info. And busy doctors may not have the patience or time to click through and find it, even if it’s there.

Tactics to try

Several strategies could make it easier for doctors and nurses to keep track of when catheters should be replaced.

Hospitals could use technology to their advantage and have clinicians do rounds via video conference, so staff won’t have to rush away from their current patients right away. Nurses and other staff could receive alerts on mobile devices before rounds begin, so they’ll have a few minutes to collect their thoughts.

In addition, staff can start using a “daily goal” checklist for each patient that lists care and recovery milestones patients and staff should meet. Items on the list can include an assessment of the patient’s need for a catheter and a deadline for its removal.

To make removal easier, the research suggests hospitals allow nurses to remove any catheter where a patient no longer meets any of the criteria for its use. A system should be in place where nurses can easily notify physicians that they’re removing a patient’s catheter, and physicians can offer additional feedback if they feel the catheter should stay.

Whatever method you choose, safe and sanitary catheter use should be an important element of your facility’s infection prevention plan. While infection rates overall are declining, the work’s not done yet. Hospitals must still be focusing on ways to decrease the likelihood of all infections – including those caused by catheters.

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