Our world is full of pathogens. These include viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms that can cause disease. It is very easy to introduce these pathogens into patients’ bodies during medical procedures if measures are not in place to protect against this. To protect patients, healthcare professionals maintain sterile fields and environments using what are known as aseptic techniques. These are procedures and practices put in place to help protect against contamination and infections that can arise. There are different types of aseptic techniques, and we will look at them below.
Physical barriers are used to protect both the patient and healthcare professional from the transfer of pathogens from one party to the other. These barriers can also be used to prevent the transfer of pathogens into an environment or from the environment to the patient. Some of the barriers used in healthcare settings include sterile gowns, sterile gloves, sterile drapes, masks for both patients and healthcare providers, as well as doors that are useful, although they provide a lot less protection than some of the other barriers.
Sterile barriers should not be touched by anyone before use, and so they are specially cleaned and packed until they are ready to use. Gowns and gloves fall into this category.
Maintaining a sterile healthcare environment requires a few things. These can be roughly divided into monitoring and personnel control. In monitoring, controls must be in place to provide data about the different environmental factors in areas that need to be sterile. These factors include temperature, humidity, and air pressure.
Temperature and humidity can both affect the growth of bacteria and pathogens, especially in areas that are required to be sterile, while air pressure control ensures that different areas of a healthcare facility are kept at different pressures to influence the flow of air as required. For example, some areas require positive pressure to ensure only the cleanest air enters these areas, while some require negative pressure to ensure “dirty” air keeps floating outwards. With proper healthcare environmental monitoring, healthcare professionals can be alerted if parameters fall out of range. Monitoring can also be used to produce records that show adherence to different environmental control goals.
Sterile areas require as few people in that area as possible. An increase in the number of people in that sterile environment introduces opportunities for the introduction of bacteria and pathogens into sterile fields.
Patient and Equipment Preparation
Patients and the equipment to be used in different procedures have to be prepared to minimize the transfer of pathogens. For patients, that often involves cleaning the skin with an antiseptic or other solution, usually alcohol or iodine, to protect from the entrance of pathogens during pricks and incisions during surgical procedures.
Equipment is sterilized using special solutions, UV light and other techniques to keep it sterile. The specific procedure used depends on the equipment as well as where and how it will be used. For example, the sterilization process for surgical scissors is vastly different from the sterilization procedure of surgical towels.
A hospital is a lot more dangerous than people assume, simply because they house a lot of sick people. It is therefore important that healthcare providers put measures in place to protect their patients from illness-causing pathogens.