Woman sitting on the couch blowing her nose and wrapped in a blanket.

Cold and Flu Season: Keeping Your Healthcare Facility Well

Cold and flu season, especially within healthcare facilities, is inevitable. Keeping your facility healthy with a multifaceted approach and prevention strategies in place is key!

Seasonal cold and flu outbreaks are most common in the autumn and winter months because of the cold and dry weather. It happens every year like clockwork. Low humidity makes it difficult for the body to stop bugs before entering because of dried out nasal passages.

Healthcare settings such as skilled nursing, assisted living, and long-term care facilities are high-risk environments conducive to the spread of respiratory pathogens and viruses. Seasonal cold and flu outbreaks are a serious issue in terms of morbidity and mortality for vulnerable populations in these types of facilities.

Cold and Flu Season in Healthcare Facilities and Clinical Settings

Nurses, certified nursing assistants, caregivers, and other healthcare workers are in constant contact with vulnerable populations where the cold and flu can develop and spread quickly. 

Healthcare staff, visitors, and residents can easily introduce an outbreak to those involved in healthcare workplaces. Plus, it even puts a further strain on an already overburdened health system. 

Developing applicable guidance to face the cold and flu season is challenging due to the unique circumstances each facility faces. Variation in the size of the facility, level of care provided, characteristics and factors contributing to each patient scenario, and resources available all play a role. 

In order for outbreaks to be minimized, prevention and control practices are necessary. Healthcare facilities must take charge where they can in providing the available tools to reduce exposure and spread. 

Let’s dive into cold and flu prevention strategies for healthcare facilities and clinical settings.

Healthcare Workplace Tips to Stay Safe and Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

Ongoing Training and Education 

All staff members should receive ongoing training on the importance and practice of infection prevention and control measures. 

Clinical settings should regularly hold meetings and training sessions for healthcare workers to remain up-to-date and instructed for managing cold and flu season. Live lectures, discussions, and educational videos are recommended means.

When healthcare workers are well-trained to understand, identify, plan, and take action, they’re more engaged in the workplace with confidence to handle cold and flu season.

Implement Infection Prevention and Control Measures

The facility must put measures in place with established approaches and precautions meeting sufficient standards at all times. This is regardless of an outbreak yet to be detected or not. Strategies within healthcare facilities include:

  • Early recognition
  • Controlling the source of a pathogen
  • Policies, procedures, and practices to minimize exposure and risk
  • Providing supplies for enhanced environmental cleaning, hand hygiene, and readily available products for disinfection
  • Altering flows of the workplace when needed to lessen likelihood of sickness
  • Use of personal protective equipment

Written Policies

Throughout the facility, all healthcare staff should be aware of policies, guidelines, strategies, and procedures regarding the cold and flu. These outlines may include:

  • Resident and staff immunization policy
  • Outbreak regonizations and defined conditions of an outbreak
  • Managing an outbreak plan
  • Distinguished communication channels
  • Operational measures such as active surveillance and visitor restriction
  • Policies for healthcare staff who are ill to remain at home and not report to work
  • Signage in all facility areas to ensure healthcare workers, patients, and visitors are aware of appropriate instructions for respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette

Healthcare worker compliance with infection prevention and control measures are found to be associated with perception that the facility has clear policies and protocols, training that’s provided for staff, and management that has a positive attitude towards health and safety in the workplace.

Managers in healthcare facilities hold a vital role in building a workplace environment in which healthcare workers feel valued with ongoing ease of access to training resources, comprehensible policies, and necessary supplies. 

Prepare for Cold and Flu Season Staffing Shortages with nurseIO 

While healthcare facilities have protocols and prevention strategies in place during cold and flu season, staffing shortages still arise. The best solution for uncertain times when sickness strikes is having a back-up plan for per diem healthcare workers to jump in as needed. 

The nurseIO platform connects healthcare facilities to local qualified per diem RNs, LPNs, CNAs, and healthcare workers. Facilities can fill open shifts and find coverage any time, any day. 

Simply post available shifts to the nurseIO platform while local healthcare workers accept shifts directly from their smartphone. Head to www.nurseIO.com to learn more!

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