Nursing, Personal Care Attendant (PCA)

Standard Precautions or Universal Precautions

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Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): There are State and Federal government agencies that have implemented safety guidelines and laws regarding infection control. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a government agency that protects employees from safety hazards in the work place. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the agency responsible for protecting and improving our health through a set of guidelines. The CDC has suggested a comprehensive infection control system for minimizing the risk of contracting infectious diseases. Within the infection control system, there are two types of precautions: Standard precautions and Transmission-based, or Isolation, precautions. Isolate means to keep something away from contact with other things.


Standard Precautions: Standard Precautions involve the practice of treating all blood, body fluids, non-intact skin (like lacerations, pimples, and sores), and mucous membranes (like the lining of the mouth nose, or genitals) as if they are infected. Standard precautions reduce the risk of spreading pathogens, as well as known and unknown infections, and should be used by all PCA’s. The following are examples of the Standard Precautions a PCA should use in a home care environment.


Wear gloves: Wear gloves whenever you are exposed to anything or any part of your patient that may harbor pathogens. If you aren't sure, err on the side of caution by using gloves.


Wash your hands: Wash your hands before and after using gloves, and don’t touch anything with dirty gloves.


Wash all surfaces: Wash all surfaces or areas that may have been contaminated with body fluids, dirty gloves, or bandages.


Wear a gown: Wear a gown if you are in contact with body fluids or if your patient has an illness that is easily spread.


Wear a mask and protective goggles: Wear a mask and protective goggles when emptying a bedpan, or if you are in close proximity of body fluids that can splash. A mask and goggles are also recommended if your client has a respiratory or airborne infection.


Sharp objects: Sharp objects such as needles necessitate that you wear gloves in handling them and dispose them in a special biohazard, sharps container. Similarly, carefully bag any contaminated material in specially marked biohazard bags, and refer to your agency’s policies for disposal