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Protecting Yourself and Others at Work

How many times have you washed your hands today? If you work as a nursing assistant, your answer would probably be, “so many times I can’t remember.”

Nursing assistants use their hands constantly at work because the most common way for infections to spread is by the hands. Therefore, to prevent the spread of disease, nursing assistants wash their hands before and after giving care to patients.

In addition to washing their hands, nursing assistants follow Standard Precautions, which means that nursing assistants treat all bodily fluids and blood they touch as if infected with a contagious bacteria or virus. By following Standard Precautions, nursing assistants prevent themselves and others, such as their families or other patients, from getting sick.

When needed, employers must provide and teach nursing assistants how to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). PPE equipment includes gowns, masks, goggles, and gloves. Nursing assistants use gloves most often. Every facility will have rules about when and where to wear gloves. If nursing assistants have open sores or cuts on their hands, they should always wear gloves when giving care. Other procedures that require gloves include

  • Mouth care, such as brushing teeth

  • Perineal care–washing the genitals and anal area

  • Changing bandages on a cut

  • Shaving a patient

If other equipment is needed, this is the correct order to don–put on and wear–PPE:

  • First: gown

  • Second: mask

  • Third: goggles

  • Fourth: gloves

Nursing assistants don gowns to keep their skin and clothing clean. When a patient has a respiratory illness, nursing assistants wear a mask. Sometimes a special mask, such as a respirator, is required for certain diseases such as Tuberculosis (TB). Nursing assistants wear goggles to protect their eyes from splashes of blood or other bodily fluids.

Immediately after care, nursing assistants should doff–or remove–their PPE; this prevents the spread of disease to other patients.

  • First: gloves

  • Second: goggles

  • Third: gown

  • Fourth: mask

Nursing assistants need to throw away all disposable items. In addition, nursing assistants should only use reusable equipment after it has been properly cleaned or sterilized.

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© 2015 by Southwest Adult Basic Education

Project made financially possible through grants from:

Southwest Initiative Foundation, Marshall Community Foundation, Southwest Regional Transition Partners, Southwest Adult Basic Education, Marshall Healthcare Partners