It’s cold and flu season again – and we all know what that means. Illnesses like flu create trouble whenever it gets cooler, while new diseases like Covid-19 continue to hang around.
Some experts worry that this year, a “tripledemic” could hit the UK, with flu, Covid-19 and RSV all circulating simultaneously.
In winter, diseases pass more easily from person to person because people spend more time indoors. But according to studies, cold, dry air can also hamper resistance to infection. That’s why, if you’re a nurse, carer or support worker it’s more important than ever to follow infection-prevention best practices like the ones below while you’re in and outside work.
Get your Covid-19 and flu vaccines
If you haven’t already had your Covid-19 and seasonal flu vaccines, now’s the time to book an appointment. Because you’re a healthcare worker, you can get both jabs through your GP or at a drop-in vaccination clinic near you. Flu jabs are also available via pharmacies.
The new bivalent Covid-19 jab protects against the original coronavirus and Omicron variants. If you do contract Covid-19, you’ll be much less likely to get seriously ill.
Take block bookings
Block bookings are convenient for lots of reasons. Being invited back to the same care home or hospital for multiple shifts in a row can provide a sense of job security. You know where you’re going and what you’ll earn well in advance, which can make it easier to plan ahead.
Block bookings also work well from an infection-control standpoint because you don’t have to visit so many healthcare facilities, limiting the spread of illness.
You can arrange block bookings with Florence - if you’re signed up with us and booking shifts on the app, just get in touch with your account manager to see what’s available near you.
Keep an eye on outbreaks
If there’s an active outbreak at one of the care homes or hospitals you regularly work in, try to avoid taking shifts anywhere else until infections tail off, even if you feel well.
People with Covid-19, flu and other seasonal illnesses can be contagious even if they’re symptom-free, so don’t take any risks.
Don’t work if you’re ill
If you have any symptoms of Covid-19, the flu or a gastrointestinal illness, it’s best to stay home. Diseases like norovirus not only spread easily from person to person but can make vulnerable individuals – like children, immune-compromised people and the elderly – very unwell.
In short, cancel your shift if you feel ill. If you’ve had diarrhoea or vomiting, wait at least 48 hours after your symptoms stop before returning to work.
Go bare below the elbows
Always observe “bare below the elbows” principles – especially in winter. Keep your fingernails short and tidy, don’t wear nail polish and don’t wear shirts that cover your forearms.
Rings (except plain wedding bands) and bracelets need to stay at home, too. While on shift, some healthcare pros swap fancier wedding bands for silicone rings, which are comfortable and can withstand repeated handwashing.
Keep your hands clean
One of the simplest ways to prevent the spread of disease? Washing your hands – properly, that is. NHS guidelines recommend washing hands for at least 20 seconds, or about as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice in a row.
If you’re still not convinced, listen to this: a single gram of human poop can contain up to a hundred billion bacteria. However, soap, warm water and a little lathering can reduce the number of bacteria on your hands by nearly 58%.
Use the right PPE
Current PPE requirements depend on where and who you work with. At the moment, nearly all medical facilities in the UK still ask staff and visitors to wear face masks. Care home guidance for visitors varies from region to region, but care workers are generally still required to wear masks in most situations.
Make sure you dispose of your PPE properly to avoid spreading infection. Don’t put used PPE in with ordinary waste; instead, put it into a pedal-operated PPE bin.
Wear a clean uniform
Clean uniforms don’t just look good – they also help prevent the spread of infection. It’s very important to wear a clean uniform to each shift, whether you work at just one location or numerous healthcare facilities.
Lightly soiled scrubs are quick and easy to clean. Perhaps surprisingly, a 10-minute wash at 60°C can remove almost all bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms. If you regularly work double shifts, ensure you have at least two sets of scrubs.
Get a full handover
Great continuity of care begins with a thorough handover, so make sure you arrive for your shift in time to get a full rundown of the day’s events. Doing this will help you understand exactly what’s been going on at the care facility or hospital.
Have the handover in a place where you won’t be interrupted, and use a format like SBAR (situation, background, assessment and recommendation) to find out as much as possible about the people you’ll be working with. At the end of your shift, don’t forget to have a handover meeting with the next nurse or care worker.
Follow the Florence infection prevention policy
Please familiarise yourself with the National Infection Prevention and Control Manual, too, and use it to stay compliant wherever and wherever you work. If you’re working with Florence, it’s essential to follow the Florence Infection Control Policy whenever you’re on shift.
Stay safe this winter
Best practices like handwashing, wearing the right PPE, thorough handovers and clean uniforms can help keep your coworkers and the vulnerable people you work with safe from infection this winter.
If you have any concerns about infection prevention on shift or questions about reducing the spread of illness, get in touch with us via chat or email. We’re always happy to help.
Florence can help you find flexible shifts near you, take essential training courses and improve your work-life balance. Find out more and sign up today.
You might also be interested in:
- How to get the new bivalent Covid-19 booster
- 12 tips to help you stay warm on shift
- How to look after your mental and physical health during winter