Guidelines Released by Joint Commission Highlight Importance of Nurses in Preventing Deadly Bloodstream Infections

Released: 12/3/2013 11:30 AM EST
Source Newsroom: Columbia University School of Nursing
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Newswise — [NEW YORK, Dec. 3, 2013] – Nurses are well positioned to stop dangerous and costly bloodstream infections caused by the improper placement of catheters in large veins in the neck, chest or groin, according to guidelines released by The Joint Commission, which oversees accreditation for U.S. hospitals, nursing homes and other health facilities. Central line-associated bloodstream infections, or CLABSI, needlessly afflict thousands of patients each year, lengthening hospital stays, boosting hospital readmission rates, and driving up the cost of care.

“These devastating bloodstream infections don’t need to happen,” says Patricia Stone, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, Centennial Professor of Health Policy in Nursing at Columbia University School of Nursing. Stone contributed to the best-practice guidelines issued by The Joint Commission and has published extensive research on the prevention of bloodstream infections.

“Nurses are on the front lines and can take advantage of their constant contact with patients and other caregivers to explain infection-control techniques and help health facilities develop and enforce standards of care that have been proven effective against CLABSI,” she says.

Catheters deliver life-saving medicines and nutrients to some of the most vulnerable patients – including premature babies in intensive care units, adults recovering from major trauma and surgery, and frail elderly patients in long-term care settings. Without proper insertion, utilization, and maintenance, catheters can also transmit deadly infections to the bloodstream.

Nurses, using their infection control training, play a vital role in creating a culture of patient safety, Stone says. They often help organize and implement effective prevention techniques including catheter insertion checklists, regular replacement of dressings, and proper hand washing techniques. With their background in education, nurses have the knowledge to inform patients and colleagues about evidence-based practices to reduce CLABSI.

Each year in the U.S., there are an estimated 100,000 deaths from health care-associated infections, and one third of the fatalities are from CLABSI, according to The Joint Commission.

Health care-associated infections create approximately $33 billion in excess medical costs for U.S. hospitals every year, yet it isn’t clear how to ensure that best-practices for prevention are followed, Stone found in a review of programs in place at acute care hospitals that was presented earlier this year at IDWeek, a conference dedicated to research in prevention, diagnosis, treatment and epidemiology of infectious disease. While most hospitals have infection prevention policies, adherence can be haphazard, putting patients at risk, Stone found.

“These infections drive up health costs, wasting resources that could be spent meeting so many other patient needs,” Stone says. “The Joint Commission’s guidelines underscore the value of investing in nurses and making sure caregivers at the bedside have all the resources they need to keep patients safe.”

Columbia University School of Nursing is part of the Columbia University Medical Center, which also includes the College of Physicians & Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, and the College of Dental Medicine. With close to 100 full-time faculty and 600 students, the School of Nursing is dedicated to educating the next generation of nurse leaders in education, research, and clinical care. The School has pioneered advanced practice nursing curricula and continues to define the role of nursing and nursing research through its PhD program which prepares nurse scientists, and its Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), the first clinical practice doctorate in the nation. Among the clinical practice areas shaped by the School’s research are the reduction of infectious disease and the use of health care informatics to improve health and health care. For more information, please visit: www.nursing.columbia.edu.


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