Connect with us
Apply Now

Health + Fitness

Why Infection Control Must be Taken Seriously in Nursing Homes

infection control

Working in a nursing home is difficult – many are understandably burned out. Since January 2020, roughly 236,000 caregivers have left the profession behind. That’s 15% of the total nursing home workforce. This year alone, more than 400 certified US nursing homes are on the brink of shutting down, double the closure rate before the pandemic began. Most facilities are operating at a loss, and without help, a quarter of the country’s skilled nursing facilities will close by 2025. As the country’s population continues to age, this trend is especially concerning.


The Need for Infection Control

How did nursing homes land in such dire straits? The answer lies in infection control, or lack thereof. The problem predates the pandemic, but COVID-19 exposed the issue to the public. COVID-19 killed nearly 136,000 nursing home residents and more than 2,000 workers. While they make up under 1% of the US population, nursing home residents accounted for 1 in 5 of the country’s COVID-19 related deaths. Low income seniors were hospitalized for the disease at 4 times the rate of other Medicare beneficiaries. 


These statistics paint a dark picture. Before the pandemic, other diseases led to similar outcomes. Prior to COVID-19’s arrival, 380,000 nursing home residents died annually from infections like influenza and urinary tract infections. 40% of nursing homes were cited for poor infection control practices. In fact, infection control was the most commonly cited deficiency on state surveys. 


Nursing Homes Need Help

Why are infection control practices so bad in nursing homes? Part of the problem is design. In 2021, only 30% of nursing homes had hand sanitizer located outside the resident’s room while 45% only had dispensers inside the room. This exposes elderly residents with weaker immune systems to outside germs. Another problem is equipment. The pandemic made the general public aware of just how powerful personal protective equipment (PPE) can be in stemming infection. Yet during the first 2 years of the pandemic, 80% of nurses experienced PPE shortages. 2 in 3 felt unsafe reusing PPE when recommended to. Even when they had the recommended N-55 masks, most nurses never had their masks fit tested. 


Most critically, the fault line in infection control is facility practices. Throughout the pandemic, nursing leaders have found communicating and implementing new policies to be among the top challenges they faced. Even when they knew what they needed to do to stop an infection, procedures weren’t always followed. In a 2021 survey of nursing homes, shared equipment was disinfected between residents 42% of the time. Nurses aren’t lapsing out of malice; rather, they’re faltering in the face of high stress and increased workloads. Staff shortages heap extra burdens onto the staff that remain. When the pressure mounts, remembering steps as simple as washing hands can become difficult. Unfortunately, these slips can have deadly consequences for the residents who rely on nurses for care.


In Conclusion

Distributing new infection control practices and guidelines in print or online is not effective. Change begins with boots on the ground, in-person support. Give nursing homes a new start.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2022 Disrupt ™ Magazine is a Minority Owned Privately Held Company - Disrupt ™ was founder by Puerto Rican serial entrepreneur and philanthropist Tony Delgado who is on a mission to transform Latin America using the power of education and entrepreneurship.

Disrupt ™ Magazine
151 Calle San Francisco
Suite 200
San Juan, Puerto Rico, 00901

Opinions expressed by Disrupt Contributors are their own. Disrupt Magazine invites voices from many diverse walks of life to share their perspectives on our contributor platform. We are big believers in freedom of speech and while we do enforce our community guidelines, we do not actively censor stories on our platform because we want to give our contributors the freedom to express their opinions. Articles are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by our community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Disrupt or its employees.
We are committed to fighting the spread of misinformation online so if you feel an article on our platform goes against our community guidelines or contains false information, we do encourage you to report it. We need your help to fight the spread of misinformation. For more information please visit our Contributor Guidelines available here.

Disrupt ™ is the voice of latino entrepreneurs around the world. We are part of a movement to increase diversity in the technology industry and we are focused on using entrepreneurship to grow new economies in underserved communities both here in Puerto Rico and throughout Latin America. We enable millennials to become what they want to become in life by learning new skills and leveraging the power of the digital economy. We are living proof that all you need to succeed in this new economy is a landing page and a dream. Disrupt tells the stories of the world top entrepreneurs, developers, creators, and digital marketers and help empower them to teach others the skills they used to grow their careers, chase their passions and create financial freedom for themselves, their families, and their lives, all while living out their true purpose. We recognize the fact that most young people are opting to skip college in exchange for entrepreneurship and real-life experience. Disrupt Magazine was designed to give the world a taste of that.