Preventing Infections in the Hospital

What You, as a Patient, Can Do

Infection Prevention Hand Washing PhotoInfections can occur after many types of medical procedures. This is particularly true if you are having surgery. There are several things you can do to avoid getting an infection in the hospital:

  • Wash your hands carefully after handling any type of soiled material. This is especially important after using the bathroom.
  • Do not be afraid to remind doctors and nurses about washing and/or disinfecting their hands before working with you.
  • If you have an intravenous catheter or an open wound, keep the skin around the dressing clean and dry. Immediately tell your nurse if the dressing becomes loose or gets wet.
  • If you have diabetes, be sure that you and your doctor discuss the best way to control your blood sugar before, during and after your hospital stay. High blood sugar noticeably increases the risk of infection.
  • If you are overweight, losing weight will reduce the risk of infection following surgery.
  • If you are a smoker, you should consider a smoking cessation program. This will reduce the chance of developing a lung infection while in the hospital and may also improve your healing abilities following surgery.
  • Carefully follow your doctor’s instructions regarding breathing treatments and getting out of bed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, advice or sufficient pain medications.
  • If possible, ask your friends and relatives not to visit if they are feeling ill.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your care so that you may fully understand your treatment plan and expected outcomes. Doing so will help you and your family and friends better facilitate your recovery.

Source: National Patient Safety Foundation,

Antibiotic Resistance Issues

Infections that occur in the hospital setting are often due to bacteria that have acquired resistance to commonly used antibiotics. Two of the most common resistant bacteria are methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE).

Commonly Asked Patient Questions

Fact Sheets about Hospital Associated Infections:

A group of the leading infection control and infectious disease societies of America have authored patient fact sheets to assist health care providers teach patients and families about infection prevention and control. These fact sheets are useful to help patients and families understand measures to prevent infection when devices such as ventilators, urinary catheters and central lines are necessary and provide education about hospital infections such as C. difficile or MRSA.