Hand Hygiene and Isolation precautions

Hand hygiene is an important practice for health care providers and has a significant impact on reducing the spread of infections in hospitals. Hand hygiene is a different way of thinking about safety and patient care and involves everyone in the hospital, including patients and health care providers. Effective hand hygiene practices in hospitals play a key role in improving patient and provider safety, and in preventing the spread of health care-associated infections.


The goal of Isolation precautions is to control the spread of infections within a community. Please speak to a member of the ICU team for further education on which isolation practices apply to your visit. Family and visitors should not assist other patients with their personal care as this may cause the germ to spread. They may be required to wear a long-sleeved gown and gloves and masks while in the ICU  room. Before leaving ICU room, visitors must remove the masks, gloves and/or gown and dispose of them in the garbage container and linen hamper located in your room. Then they must clean their hands. 


Frequently asked questions

Why am I being asked to leave the ICU room?

When visiting a loved one in ICU, you may be asked to leave the room at certain times. There are several possible reasons why you may be asked to leave:


  • ICU patients require frequent nursing care such as washing and turning which require many people to be in the room to help. We may ask you to leave during these times to create enough space to perform these tasks.
  • ICU patients frequently require minor procedures, such as the placement of catheters. Since these procedures are performed under clean conditions, you will be asked to leave while they are happening.
  • Because there are many other patients in the ICU, you may be asked to leave when nearby patients are undergoing a sensitive procedure in order to protect patient confidentiality.


How often should we speak to the ICU Doctor? 

This is partially your decision as well. Doctors vary in how much time they allow for families. Remember, you need to have your needs met. Usually daily discussions with the doctor are appropriate. If the family is large, it is probably best for one family member to act as the spokesperson. If the doctor is visiting once a day, put your questions in writing and make certain they get answered. If you have an immediate need, do not hesitate to call the doctor or nurse.


What should I tell the patient? 

Talk to the patient as you normally would, even if you are not sure the patient can hear you. Be supportive and loving. Watch the patient's response. It may indicate how you should proceed.


How long should I visit the patient?        

Visit as much as it helps the patient. However, you must also take care of yourself and, perhaps, other family members. It is often best to talk with your nurse to see what is best for the patient.


As primary care partner, should I stay all day?       

Usually, no. Remember you need to take of yourself. Get the rest and food you need. Doing so will help keep you strong, able to think clearly and make the best contribution to the care of the patient.


Should I bring anything from home?        

Possibly. Things that might help the patient relax or sleep are generally a good idea. Photographs, a favorite robe or slippers, etc., can make patients feel more comfortable. However, always check with your nurse before bringing anything into the ICU.


Can I touch the patient?        

Of course. However, make sure you have thoroughly washed your hands and talked to the nurse first. Sometimes, the doctor and nurse may want you to wear gloves or a gown to avoid spreading germs. Generally, hold the patient's hand, brush their hair, or do whatever makes them feel better.


How can the patient communicate with a breathing tube in place?       

The breathing tube can make speaking very difficult. Even after the breathing tube is removed, patients throat maybe sore and voice horse. If it is too difficult for the patient to speak, try giving him/her a pen and large pad of paper. Keep exchanges simple. Do not ask questions that require long answers. Ask the nurse for help if you cannot communicate to your satisfaction.