The nature of any healthcare facility is such that there is an ever-present risk of infection and passing on communicable diseases. Universal protection is thus prescribed because a majority of medical personnel have to come in contact with patients or contaminated materials in course of their work.
The following guidelines will help you to ensure better protection while using personal equipment.
1. Washing Hands: This simple procedure is also many times the most neglected. But the fact remains that washing your hands before and after any treatment is one of the most effective ways to avoid spreading infections and must be followed regularly. If soap and water are unavailable even waterless hand cleaners work well.
2. Equipment: You may know of all the equipment used under universal precautions but you must also actually wear the required gear without skipping on any of them. The most important being the gloves, which should be used for all kinds of treatments or procedures, no matter how basic they are.
3. Wearing Equipment: It is equally important to wear your gear properly. Any equipment worn loosely can allow a splash of blood or fluid to touch your body especially the eyes, mouth and nose if an ill-fitting mask is used. Always remember to use properly fitting gear and wear it securely before starting treatment.
4. Reuse: All equipment that can be reused must be given for suitable cleaning. Decontamination, laundering and sterilization may be some of the methods used according to the equipment. You must ensure that the gear is clean before reuse and also look for damages like tear or breakages that might have been caused during the cleaning process.
5. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) Masks: CPR requires close contact with a patient, thus use of CPR masks is highly recommended in such cases. If the mask is unavailable, quickly look for resuscitation bags or any similar ventilation device before proceeding to administer artificial respiration without any protection.
6. Proper Disposal: All disposable items of your gear must be discarded properly in the designated containers or bags that have proper labels indicating the potentially bio-hazardous contents. Do not leave such used gear lying around which can lead to spreading of infections, and follow the procedures of your healthcare facility at all times. Even if you are administering first aid away from the facility remember to put such gear in small plastic bags and seal it. Never throw them on the road side after use.
7. Accidental Contact: Even after wearing all the required gear, if some fluid or blood does come in contact with your skin you must use an antiseptic agent to clean it off. If your skin is broken or if you feel unwell then seek medical treatment immediately.
Under universal precautions it is assumed that every patient can potentially carry an infection. Thus it is very important to ensure that the few basic pieces of gear like gloves and face masks are also kept in your first aid kits. Such gear can be helpful to keep you from contracting any disease or even from spreading it to others around you.