Every year, America’s healthcare professionals treat millions of people affected by the flu.
Doctors, nurses, and other staff members naturally have an altruistic interest in eliminating any further spread of this illness.
The top techniques for avoiding the accidental spread of influenza are well-known.
However, there are additional ways you can help your office fight the germs this flu season.
Here are some useful strategies you can add to your workplace toolkit.
Adopting Pre-Screening Procedures
During flu season, you can limit the spread of the flu by leveraging your everyday scheduling procedures.
When taking appointments, ask the patient if he or she is currently experiencing flu symptoms.
Doing so can give you the information you need to advise team members to take extra flu-prevention precautions if and when the patient comes in for a visit. It may also help you identify people affected by less severe symptoms that can be managed without an office visit.
In addition, your pre-screening efforts can help you establish safer in-office conditions for all patients. For example, your healthcare facility may decide to ask all patients presenting with flu-like symptoms to wear a face mask as a precaution when arriving for their appointments.
Helping Patients Recognize Potential Flu Symptoms
Establishing pre-screening procedures can give you valuable insight before patients arrive. However, not all patients with flu symptoms will recognize or report their condition. Still others may develop symptoms between your screening and their appointments.
Strengthening community awareness surrounding the flu can go a long way toward minimizing the risk of individuals spreading the infection.
To improve awareness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all healthcare facilities post multiple, prominent notices that offer flu-prevention information. As often as possible, notices should be available in the languages most commonly spoken in your area.
In case patients mistake their illness for something other than influenza, the CDC also recommends that healthcare professionals ask patients to report all respiratory problems during flu season, regardless of their potential source.
Setting Up Triage Stations
In a crowded doctor’s office, it’s crucial to avoid transfer of the fluid droplets that make influenza infections more likely to occur.
If your facility has the space and personnel, you can isolate flu patients with dedicated triage areas. Triage areas serve two purposes.
First, they allow you to identify affected patients and keep them separate from patients visiting your office for other reasons. In turn, this allows you to keep visitors unaffected by the illness free from contact with any infectious droplets spread by coughing or sneezing.
Additionally, triage areas limit the number of surfaces and spaces that may be contaminated. These areas can be disinfected more frequently without causing a major increase in the burden of infection control.
Re-Educating Your Staff
As the old saying goes, familiarity can breed complacency.
During flu season, you may see scores of patients with influenza symptoms each week. Over time, these repeated interactions may start to dull your awareness of the risks you face. As much as we love our healthcare professionals and think of them as community heroes, the truth is that doctors, nurses, and hospital staff are just as vulnerable to the flu as patients.
Due to the frequency of interacting with ill patients, healthcare professionals are also potential vectors.
Before and during flu season, take some time to re-educate your staff about the actions needed to limit new exposures. Discuss any special precautions or protocols your facility has implemented to reduce the spread of the virus. Then provide your team with periodic refreshers in the form of notices or meetings that remind everyone to stay the course.
Also, don’t forget that getting your flu shot each year is still the most effective way to prevent the spread of flu.
Stopping the spread of the flu is a team effort. As a united team, you can save patients from suffering from the flu.
Adhering to Guidelines for Sick Employees
Public health officials have established a full set of guidelines for healthcare professionals who get sick during the flu season. These guidelines provide extensive information on what to do if you or your staff develop symptoms.
However, good advice is only beneficial if you take it. While well-meaning, for a number of reasons, doctors, nurses, and other caretakers may not follow best practices when they fall ill.
If your office has guidelines for sick employees, be sure to follow them even when your natural desire is to get to work and help others. If your office hasn’t yet adopted an official set of protocols for ill employees, encourage your management team or HR to put best practices in place.
You can’t help others if you’re too ill to get to work. At GermBlast, we want to help our healthcare heroes do what they do best. We partner with healthcare facilities to stop the spread of infection in its tracks with proven environmental and equipment disinfection procedures.
If your healthcare facility could benefit from a dedicated partner in the fight against infection, let us know. We’d love to schedule a site survey with you and your team.
Then, let us know in the comments below which tactics your office has put in place to help prevent the spread of the flu!