Transmission-Based Precautions: Definition, Types & Examples

Instructor: Justine Fritzel

Justine has been a Registered Nurse for 10 years and has a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree.

What precautions should you use when coming in contact with different diseases? In this lesson, we will learn about different types of transmission-based precautions.

Hospitals are for Healing

Most people think of hospitals as the place to go when they are ill. They may imagine it as a place to heal. Although these are both true statements, if you work in the hospital, or healthcare field in general, you know that the hospital is full of germs that can cause illness.

It makes sense if you think about it, people in the hospital are sick, so of course there is an abundance of germs. It is the responsibility of the healthcare workers to ensure that these germs are not spread from patient to patient. And just as important, it is essential that the healthcare worker protects themselves from the germs they come in contact with.

Standard Precautions

Standard precautions is the practice healthcare providers should follow when caring for all patients. You should always assume body fluids and environments are infectious, even if it is not confirmed that it is. If you don't practice standard precautions because your patient hasn't been diagnosed with something infectious, you could have exposed yourself to the infectious agent before it was discovered that they had it!

Handwashing is the best way to prevent the transmission of germs. Washing your hands before and after caring for a patient is essential. If you might come in contact with germs, use the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). This would include gloves, gown, and/or a mask if indicated. When touching things in the room or the patient's belongings, use caution. Again, you don't know if there is an infectious agent hanging out. Proper disinfecting and cleaning of the room is another standard precaution to ensure safety of those entering the room.

Contact Precautions

You are caring for Norma in the hospital and she has a wound to her foot. She has been diagnosed with methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the wound. What precautions should she be on?

Your patient would need to be on contact precautions. Since this bacteria could be spread from coming in contact with the wound or the environment, you would want to protect yourself as well as other patients with the following guidelines. Norma needs a private room if it is available, this decreases the chance of exposing other patients. All visitors need to wear gowns and gloves before entering Norma's room.

Norma would need to stay in her room unless absolutely necessary, again to prevent spreading the germs to other areas in the hospital. Equipment needed to care for Norma would need to stay in the room and be designated only for her use. Housekeeping would need to adequately disinfect her room daily and extensively when Norma leaves the hospital. And as always, everyone should wash their hands before entering the room and after leaving the room.

Droplet Precautions

Another nurse on the hall is assigned to care for Tom who has been diagnosed with pertussis, also known as whooping cough. What precautions are needed for Tom?

Droplet precautions are used when infectious germs are capable of being passed from one person to another through coughing, sneezing, or even talking. When Tom coughs, the germs can travel up to six feet through the air and can infect a nearby person by entering into their body through contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth. This will probably make you cringe the next time someone is coughing near you.

Droplet precautions include the same precautions we discussed previously, good handwashing, thorough cleaning of the room, and providing a private room for Tom. Additional precautions include wearing a mask when entering Tom's room. He also should remain in his room unless necessary and if he does need to leave, he should wear a mask to prevent spreading the germs to other susceptible people.

Airborne Precautions

It is a rough day on the hospital unit today. Now Frank was just admitted and the doctors believe he has tuberculosis which is a contagious lung infection. What precautions are needed for Frank?

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