Principles of infection control: Standard precautions


Chapter 8

Principles of infection control


Standard precautions



Healthcare professionals are widely exposed to large numbers and varieties of microorganisms. This poses a threat both to the practitioner and to the women and babies in her care. The term ‘standard precautions’ (previously having incorporated ‘universal precautions’) refers to the measures taken universally, i.e. by all health professionals for all women and babies, all the time, (whatever the clinical environment, whether infection is known or suspected or not) to achieve mutual protection. The ultimate aim of standard precaution use is to prevent the transfer of infection. As an important area of care, the reader is required to keep up-to-date with developing protocols. The cost of infection to individuals (service users and staff), the NHS, and the community as a whole is large and the increasing incidence of healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) all mean that the use of standard precautions has to be correct every time. This chapter reviews the nature and use of standard precautions and the principles of isolation nursing.



Standard infection control precautions


Childbearing women are considered to be in a high-risk category for standard precaution use because:



Applying standard precautions to everyone maintains safety and prevents any individual feeling isolated or ‘singled out’. In the UK the NHS encourages service users to be aware of, and involved in, the infection control issue with campaigns such as ‘It’s ok to ask’ (NPSA 2011), giving permission for women to ask midwives and doctors if they have washed their hands. Confidentiality may be compromised if some procedures are perceived to be used for some women and not for others. While there may be times when wearing protective clothing is potentially disruptive to the relationship that a midwife has built up with a woman, the midwife must consider the significance of protection, both for the woman and midwife, and that of other women, too. Simple explanations to the woman are usually sufficient and reassuring.


Standard precautions should be used when there is or expected to be contact with blood, vaginal and seminal secretions, urine or faeces, amniotic fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, saliva, breast milk or any other bodily fluid. Sweat is the only exception. While the principles need to be applied correctly, the midwife needs to be alert to these situations:




Principles of standard precautions


Hand decontamination


This is discussed in detail in Chapter 9; this is a summary.




Personal protective equipment


Personal protective equipment (PPE) is that which aims to protect healthcare practitioners from being infected and to stop the potential transfer of infection from one client to another via staff members. Such items include gloves, gowns, aprons, masks, goggles, visors, caps and theatre footwear. Wyeth (2013) suggests that there can be inappropriate and overuse of such items, this agrees with Wilson & Loveday (2014) who found that staff wanted to protect themselves and their families from the threat of infection. This has a safety and a cost implication.


The appropriate items should be selected following a risk assessment:



Determining the risk will aid the midwife in their choice of protection. The items should all be readily available at the point of use. Care should also be taken to remove PPE correctly and in the correct order:


Oct 17, 2016 | Posted by in MIDWIFERY | Comments Off on Principles of infection control: Standard precautions
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