Influenza is a contagious viral infection that attacks the lungs, nose, and throat. Symptoms range from mild to severe, and flu can cause life-threatening complications or even death. It’s important for every healthcare provider to actively plan for the flu season and do what they can to prevent transmission. Discover how to prepare your practice for flu season.
Implement Transmission Prevention Strategies
Design and implement a flu transmission prevention strategy to safeguard the well-being of healthcare providers, support staff, patients, and visitors. The most effective way personnel and staff can prevent infection is by getting the influenza vaccine. Everyone over the age of six months, including pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions, should get the vaccine.
Consider when and how you will deliver vaccines to your staff. You might give vaccinations during a specified flu vaccine day or during extended hours. Order your supply of vaccines early to avoid placement on a waitlist.
Review and update policies for the upcoming flu season. If staff members exhibit flu-like symptoms, they should stay home to recover and protect others. Have a plan in place to cover shortages.
Consider implementing visitor restrictions. You might put the restrictions in place depending on infection rates in your community or another metric. Consider the types of visitors you will restrict, such as children under 12 years of age, because they are less likely to exhibit symptoms of infection.
Have tissues, soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and masks available for staff, visitors, and patients. Educate staff about your flu season policy so everyone can follow best practices.
Educate Everyone on Coughing and Sneezing Practices
Educate workers and patients about practices that help reduce the rate of transmission. When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Then, throw the used tissue immediately into a trash can. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze onto the inner elbow of your sleeve rather than into your hands.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. When the germs on your hands come in contact with mucous membranes, they can cause infections.
Use soap and warm water to wash hands, and clean your hands upon entering or exiting exam rooms. If you don’t have ready access to soap and water, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Then, wash your hands when you have access to soap and water again.
Improve Patient Vaccination Rates
You can make a difference fighting the flu by improving patient vaccination rates. Start the process by recommending the influenza vaccine for patients over six months old.
Many people trust their personal healthcare providers as reliable sources of information regarding vaccines. With a thorough vaccination recommendation, healthcare professionals can increase the likelihood of patients getting the vaccine. The vaccination can reduce the chances of hospitalization and death.
The CDC suggests healthcare professionals should use the SHARE approach when recommending the flu vaccine.
- Share the reasons why getting the vaccine is the right choice for the patient.
- Highlight positive experiences people have with the vaccine.
- Address patient questions and concerns.
- Remind patients that the vaccine protects them and their loved ones.
- Explain potential consequences of getting the flu, such as health effects, financial costs, and lost work time.
Using the SHARE approach helps you effectively recommend the vaccine to patients. By personalizing your recommendation, you assist patients in understanding the benefits of the vaccine and the risks of influenza.
In addition to providing vaccines during routine visits or scheduled appointments, consider setting up walk-in vaccination times for patients. This makes it more convenient for patients to get vaccines, and more efficient for your practice to provide them.
Post Signs and Provide Educational Materials
Another critical way to prepare your practice for flu season is to create informational and educational materials for staff, patients, and visitors. These materials facilitate understanding of the flu and your practice’s protocols.
Put information about the flu season and your clinic’s protocols on your website. Place signs throughout your facility, including reminders of how to prevent the flu and special information such as restrictions regarding visitors. Provide printed educational materials or send the information through email.
If your practice actively uses social media, use your platform to share content about the flu season and your practice’s response. Tell patients about important information such as extended hours, how to schedule vaccines, and walk-in clinic availability. You can also share general information such as hand-washing practices, coughing etiquette, and effective sanitation measures.
Stock Up on Supplies
Ensure your facility has enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect workers throughout the flu season. Staff who provide direct patient care may have a higher risk of exposure to the flu virus at work. Wearing PPE can help reduce the risk, so make sure everyone wears the appropriate gloves, gowns, masks, and other safety gear. Put on and take off PPE in the right order to prevent contamination.
Also, store plenty of cleaning and sanitizing products and materials. While medical practices must uphold a high standard of cleaning and sanitization, flu season highlights the importance of these standards.
Clean and Sanitize
Cleaning staff must clean and disinfect common high-touch surfaces often; these surfaces include telephones, computer equipment, light switches, and doorknobs. Flu viruses stay active longer on hard, nonporous materials such as stainless steel and plastic in comparison to softer surfaces such as cloth and paper.
Clean and sterilize all medical equipment to protect the health of patients and staff. Follow the appropriate cleaning and sanitizing procedures for a clean-up event, such as a blood spill. Medical practices have multiple high-traffic areas, such as waiting rooms, entries, exits, and exam rooms. In these areas, use effective disinfectants that are safe to be utilized around people.
Minimizing infections and transmission during flu season requires developing and following precise safety protocols. Educate your medical team, patients, and visitors about the flu, vaccine, safety practices, and your clinic’s strategies. Through a coordinated effort, your practice can effectively prevent flu transmission.
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