Young boy practicing CDC handwashing techniques

A Nurses Perspective on Protecting Their Homefront

One nurse’s advice on protecting her own home during (and after) the pandemic

These are interesting times as a Nurse. Many hospitals are beginning to reopen to elective procedures, while testing and treatment of COVID-19 patients continues to be the highest priority at facilities across the country - and around the globe. The whole world is pondering the best plans for reopening economies and best practices for slowing the spread of Coronavirus going forward. 

With the influx of new information on a daily basis, the constant media attention, and the general “edge” that everyone feels when walking into the grocery store, we all wonder how to continue to protect ourselves and our homes going forward. Everyone is at risk, whether in healthcare or not.

What are the most important issues on the mind of nurses in the midst of all of this? How do we make sure we aren’t bringing these yucky germs home? How do we make sure our homes remain a safe place? How do we teach our children and loved ones the importance of hygiene and the techniques that can protect them? 

The truth is everyone already knows how to wash their hands and clean their house, right? The thing is, as a nurse who washes her hands up to a hundred times a day, I can say that everybody does NOT know. Because we see sickness at its worst every day, and we know how easy it is for germs to spread, we know how serious all of this really is. 

Hand Hygiene 

Can we just take a moment to applaud how proper hand hygiene is being educated across the globe right now? Nurses everywhere are collectively sighing a breath of relief. Hand hygiene is a friend, not a foe people!  Let’s hope everyone will continue to prioritize this practice after the pandemic subsides! So, what is the CDC’s recommendation for proper hand hygiene? 

CDC recommendations: 

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for a full 20 seconds. 
  • Scrub, scrub, scrub. Get in between your fingers, underneath your nails, and let’s not forget the back of your hands. 

But what if there is no soap? No water? (Gasp! The horror!)

  • Hand sanitizer is a good thing here, people! The CDC recommends one with at least a 60% alcohol base.

I personally keep the hand lotion close near the sink because chances are your hands will become more dry than normal. Lotion up! We aren’t trying to prematurely age our hands here, are we?

And how often should we really be teaching those around us to wash our hands? More often than they think they should. As nurses, we get it. But helping those around us to understand is another thing. What is “frequently” anyway? Well, by definition it’s “regularly, often, habitually, at short intervals.” In practice, frequently means incorporating handwashing into the beginning and end of a number of our natural, many-times-a-day routines. 

  • Immediately after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, using the bathroom 
  • After touching surfaces in a public space
  • Before and after eating or preparing food 
  • Before and after touching your face

Cleaning and Disinfecting Surfaces 

I can’t speak for everyone, but when I get my first day off after working a long stretch, I want to clean. And I want to clean EVERYTHING. I’m talking bed linens, bathrooms, kitchen, floors, catching up on laundry, and everything else in between. 

CDC recommendations: 

Sometimes we all need to be reminded of the recommended two-step process of Cleaning and Disinfecting. 

Cleaning

Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. It does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.

Clean all high touch surfaces. For example, tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks, and electronics.

  1. First, clean the surfaces with plain old soap and water. 
  2. Next, once those surfaces are nice and clean, grab a household cleaner like a 409 or Simple Green (whatever product you have on hand) and attack the surfaces again with that spray and get those germs wiped away. 

For porous services, remove all visible soil and launder if possible using the highest allowable water temperature.

Disinfecting

Disinfecting refers to using chemicals, for example, EPA-registered disinfectants, to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

Are all your disinfecting cleaning products still on backorder, too? No problem! The CDC teaches you how to make your own disinfecting solution from bleach.

  • You take 5 tablespoons of bleach and pour it into a gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons of bleach in a quart of water. Mix it all together, out of the reach of children of course. 
  • Be sure that the cleaning solution has surface contact for at least one minute.

Protecting the Homefront

First, can I give a shout out to all of those Nurses who must self-isolate when off-duty to avoid spreading the Coronavirus to their families? If we’re lucky enough to get to come home after every shift, we may leave our shoes at the door, but we carry with us the legitimate concerns of what we could be bringing with us into our homes.

I would love to offer some magical advice but the real magic is in continuing with what we already know and teaching those around us to really practice these simple techniques diligently. How many lives could be changed - perhaps even saved - if everyone did their part indefinitely! It is a common joke that in nursing school we spend 25% of our time learning nursing, and 75% of our time washing our hands. The funny thing is, it’s not a joke at all.