Infection Control


wash your hands sign

As a direct care staff person, an important part of your job is to protect yourself and the residents from infectious disease(s). Some residents have weakened immune systems and are more vulnerable to getting infections. An important part of maintaining a safe environment is to recognize signs of infection. This section will present several ways to control and limit the spread of germs that cause infections.

Germs cause illness and disease. As a direct care staff person, you will come in contact with body fluids that may contain germs such as blood, mucous, vomit, tears, semen, vaginal secretions, saliva, urine, feces and sweat.

In order to prevent an infection from spreading, it is important to understand where germs live, how germs get to people and how germs enter people’s bodies. There are many “sources” of germs. These are places germs live before they infect. Sources include: under the fingernails, on the skin, on an unclean surface and in water and food. There are many germs on the kitchen counter and in the bathroom. Germs can be found almost everywhere, including: in the air, on surfaces, on your hands and in your nose. Germs can enter the body through any opening such as your nose, mouth or any opening such as cuts.

Good hand hygiene is important:

The first step to prevent the spread of infectious disease is to practice good hand washing hygiene. Hand washing seems like such an obvious thing to do, but numerous studies show that many people, including health care workers, often forget to wash their hands as thoroughly and frequently as they should.

When to wash hands:

  • Before and after wearing gloves.
  • At the start of the workday and several times throughout the day.
  • When your hands are visibly soiled (dirty) or contaminated with blood or body fluids.
  • Before having direct contact with the resident’s skin.
  • After having direct contact with the resident’s skin, especially when the skin has wounds or is broken.
  • After assisting with toileting or changing incontinence products from the resident.
  • After the direct care worker uses the restroom.
  • Before eating.
  • Before preparing food.
  • Before serving food.
  • After wiping nose, sneezing or touching the face.
  • After smoking.

How to wash hands properly:

hand washing

  1. Wet your hands under warm, running water.
  2. Rub your hands together with soap and work up a good lather to all surfaces from 2 inches above the wrists for 20 seconds or sing the ABC’s (which takes 20 seconds).
  3. Wash the palms, sides and the back of your hands, in between your fingers, your thumbs and under your fingernails.
  4. Rub the nails of each hand across the palm to remove dirt from under the fingernails.

Repeat steps 3 and 4 for 20 seconds.

  1. Rinse your hands under warm running water. Make sure you get all the soap off.
  2. Dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel. Pat your hands, and work back toward your forearms.
  3. Turn the faucet off with the paper towel and use the paper towel to open the door as you leave the restroom so that you do not pick up germs that may exist on the handle.

The most important procedure to prevent the spread of germs is hand washing.

Another thing personal care staff persons can do to reduce the spread of germs is to limit their wearing of jewelry. This is because the tiny surfaces and crevices on rings and other jewelry can serve as a breeding ground for germs. If you choose to wear a ring, keep it simple. Since fingernails can serve as a breeding ground for germs, keep your nails short and clean.

Using gloves to reduce risk of infection:

As a direct care staff person, you should use gloves when there is the possibility that you will have contact with blood, other potentially infectious material or items and surfaces contaminated with these materials. Wear gloves to carry materials that are soiled or contaminated, and carry the material so it does not touch any other surface, including your clothing. It is important to dispose of soiled material as soon as possible. For example, put soiled linens directly into the designated container and not on the floor. Do not leave soiled linens on the floor even for a short time, such as while you finish making the bed.

Putting on and taking off gloves:

Before putting gloves on, remove all sharp jewelry and wash hands to remove germs. When putting the gloves on, begin by putting your fingers into the tips of the glove and then pull the entire glove over your clean hand. Remove gloves by pulling the glove inside out so that whatever has touched the glove remains untouched by your exposed skin.

Cleaning and disinfecting – Keeping germs away:


Another critical method for preventing the spread of germs is cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. Cleaning refers to washing with soap and water, and disinfecting refers to use of a cleaning product that kills bacteria and other germs. Disinfection is especially important in the kitchen and bathroom.

Some general steps are involved in the proper cleaning and disinfection of surfaces:

  • Carefully follow directions and precautions on all cleaning products.
  • Begin by cleaning the surface thoroughly with soap and water or another cleaner.
  • After cleaning, if you need to use a disinfectant, apply it to the area and let it stand for a few minutes or longer following the directions on the product.
  • Wipe the surface with a paper towel that can be thrown away or a cloth that will be washed immediately afterward.
  • After cleaning or disinfecting, always wash hands, even if you wore gloves.


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