Infection control practices: universal precautions

Nurse Leader Insider, March 11, 2020

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The system of universal precautions requires healthcare workers to routinely use appropriate barrier precautions when caring for patients, regardless of the patient's known or suspected infection status. Universal precautions should be observed whenever workers may have contact with human blood, blood products, and other bodily fluids that contain visible blood.

The system of universal precautions requires precautions that include the following:

  • Gloves - Gloves should be worn for touching blood and bodily fluids, mucous membranes, or non-intact skin of all patients, for handling items or surfaces soiled with blood or bodily fluids. Gloves should be changed after contact with each patient.
  • Handwashing practices - Hands and other skin surfaces should be washed immediately and thoroughly if contaminated with blood or other bodily fluids. Hands should be washed immediately after gloves are removed.
  • Needlestick precautions - All healthcare workers should take precautions to prevent injuries when cleaning used instruments; during disposal of used needles; and when handling sharp instruments after procedures. After use, disposable syringes and needles, scalpel blades, and other sharp items should be placed in puncture-resistant containers for disposal.
  • Saliva precautions - Mouthpieces, resuscitation bags, or other ventilation devices should be available for use in areas where the need for resuscitation is predictable.


Editor's note: The above excerpt was from HCPro's online course, "Isolation Precautions for Healthcare Staff: Addressing the Threat of Emerging Infections." Check out our latest nursing resources here.

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