Protective Isolation: What Is It and Why Do I Need It?
Our immune system keeps us healthy by fighting organisms from our everyday environment, like bacteria and viruses, which could possibly harm us. However, when we are immunocompromised (have a weakened immune system), common organisms become a threat since our bodies are unable to fight them off. This is when protective isolation is helpful. Doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff practice protective isolation to make sure that patients with weakened immune systems are not exposed to organisms that could potentially lead to infection and serious complications.If you are admitted to the hospital and are under protective isolation, here are actions that the staff will take to protect you.
Your RoomYou may be given your own hospital room. The staff will take steps to keep your room clean during your stay. This may include:
- Cleaning surfaces, such as tabletops and doorknobs, with damp cloths and detergent
- Cleaning equipment with alcohol wipes or water and detergent
- Making sure the room is properly ventilated
- Keeping only necessary furniture and equipment in the room
- Stocking the sink with hand hygiene products such as hand sanitizer, soap, paper towels, and gloves
- Changing bed sheets, towels, and other linens daily
- Mopping floors daily
- Keeping the door to your room closed
- Removing fresh flowers and plants from the room
Hospital Staff and VisitorsHospital staff and visitors, like your family and friends, may be dressed in protective clothing when they enter your room in some cases. They may be wearing disposable:
- Aprons or gowns
- Shoe coverings
- Hair nets
Steps You Can TakeAside from precautions that staff and visitors will take, there are things you can do to prevent infections from transmitting to you, and vice versa:
- Wash your hands properly before and after eating and using the bathroom.
- If the nurse says it is okay, bathe daily. If you need help with this, the staff can assist you.
- When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Put the tissue in the trash right away. Visitors should also be asked to do this when they are around you.
United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
United States Department of Health and Human Services
Canadian National Occupation Health and Safety Resource
Contact isolation procedures. MedStar Harbor Hospital website. Available at: http://www.harborhospital.org/documents/Contact%5FSign.pdf. Accessed March 14, 2013.
Guidance for the selection and use of personal protective equipment in healthcare settings. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/pdfs/ppe/PPEslides6-29-04.pdf. Updated June 29, 2011. Accessed March 14, 2013.
Landelle C, Pagaini L, Harbarth S. Is patient isolation the single most important measure to prevent the spread of multidrug-resistant pathogens?Virulence. 2013;4(2):163-171.
Siegel JD, Rhinehart E, Jackson M, Chiarello L; the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. 2007 guideline for isolation precautions: preventing transmission of infectious agents in healthcare settings 2007. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hicpac/pdf/isolation/Isolation2007.pdf. Accessed March 9, 2011.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 03/2013
- Update Date: 03/01/2013