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Health care associated infections (HAIs) are among the most common complications of being a patient in a hospital.

On average 247 people die every day as a result of HAIs, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).1,2 At the University of Vermont Medical Center, the Office of Infection Prevention has a dedicated team of six professionals who work tirelessly to prevent HAIs. Much of this work focuses on educating doctors, nurses, and support staff on the current best practices to avoid HAIs. The Infection Prevention team is also involved in many quality improvement projects across the organization with the overall goal of keeping patients safe from infection. And you have a role to play too!

The CDC recommends that you take the following six steps to be safe when it comes to preventing a health care associated infection.

  1. Speak up! Ask your doctor about any questions or worries that you may have
    • Ask what is being done to protect you from infection
    • If you have an intravenous line (IV) or urinary catheter, ask if it is still necessary
    • Taking invasive lines out as soon as possible can help prevent an infection
    • If you have surgery, ask your doctor how they plan to prevent surgical site infections
    • Ask how you can prepare for surgery to reduce risk of infection after surgery
  2. Keep hands clean!
    • Be sure everyone cleans their hands before touching you -including doctors, nurses, physical therapists, AND your family and friends
    • If you are unsure if someone has washed their hands, don’t be afraid to ask them
    • If you see that someone has not washed their hands, speak up and remind them
  3. Be smart about antibiotics:
    • Ask if tests will be done to make sure the right antibiotic will be prescribed
  4. Know the signs and symptoms of an infection:
    • Some skin infections can appear as redness, pain, or drainage at an IV site or surgical site
    • Often symptoms of infection come with a fever
    • Tell your doctor or nurse if you notice signs of an infection
  5. Diarrhea can be a sign of certain types of infections:
    • Tell your doctor if you have more than two diarrhea episodes in 24 hours, especially if you have been taking an antibiotic
  6. Protect yourself:
    • Get vaccinated against flu and other infections to avoid complications and hospitalizations

Working with you, we aim for zero health care associated infections.

This week we will be posting daily blogs with perspectives on safety and letting you know how you can partner with us on patient safety. Answer the question at the end of each daily blog and be entered to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card made possible by our partnership with the New England Federal Credit Union. Thank you for joining us in recognizing National Patient Safety Awareness Week and for your participation!

Partner with us, speak up, and don’t leave patient safety to chance!


The Office of Infection Prevention at the University of Vermont Medical Center

  1. Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: CDC at work: Preventing healthcare-associated infections
  2. World Health Organization: Health care-associated infections: Fact Sheet

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