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HICprevent

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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

CDC doc: Be the ‘bad cop’ to protect hospitalized loved ones from infections.

January 12th, 2015

It’s really hard. When my own mother was in the intensive care unit, I found it hard to pipe up. If I find it hard, I can't imagine what it's like for everybody else. But what I can tell you is, when a friend of mine was recently in the intensive care unit, two of us, another friend and myself, we took turns being the bad cop. We supported each other. It's easier to do when you decide up front I’m going to be the bad cop today. It's hard to do. But it's very important that people try.

Dr. Michael Bell, the deputy director of the CDC's Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion. Lastly, I’d like to say a word about what can you do as a patient. I'm always asked what is it that I can do to protect myself in the hospital or a loved one? The short answer is ask questions. It's hard, but you have to ask questions. And the questions to ask are things like have you washed your hands? It sounds basic, but it's important. And you can ask it in a nice way. You can say I’m sure you just washed your hands it would mean a lot to me and my mother if you would wash them again. Because we're very worried about infections in the hospital. You can ask questions about the catheters you have. If you have a catheter in place, ask every day can the catheter come out today? In fact, before you have a catheter put in, when you're talking to your surgeon, ask her how long will I have to have a catheter after my procedure? If she says two days, starting day two, start asking can the catheter come out today? They said it would come out today. Finally ask about testing. Are you doing tests to make sure I’m on the right antibiotic? If so, you know, tell me about it. These questions are very hard to ask if you're a patient receiving care. You have plenty to think about. I think it's a good idea to bring a friend or family member whose main job it is to be the persistent asker of those questions. Because at the end of the day, the doctors, the nurses, the entire medical team wants you to get better. Even though it might be annoying for a minute, it's a helpful reminder to have hand washing, catheter removal and appropriate antibiotic use be at the top of their minds.