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Health Worker Safety Initiative Creates a Lifesaving Culture of Change

  • September 19, 2011

Nurse Explains How Model Program Helps Hospital Reduce the Spread of Disease and Infection

Inobena Tosiri, assistant nurse-in-charge of the oncology ward at Bugando Medical Centre in Tanzania, has learned a great deal about preventing the spread of infection and disease and has shared this lifesaving knowledge with coworkers.Nurse Tosiri is one of 40 employees who completed the peer trainer program as part of the Health Worker Safety Initiative funded by AmeriCares with support from corporate partners. Since its inception in 2008, the initiative has become a model program in best practices, training 1,128 health care workers on how to protect themselves and others from infection and injury while they care for the more than 240,000 patients a year at this 900-bed referral and teaching hospital.As Nurse Tosiri’s knowledge of safe practices grew, so did her commitment to making Bugando Medical Centre a safer place for both patients and staff. Since 2009, she has led health worker safety trainings on hand washing, waste disposal, and environmental decontamination.

Clean Hands Save Lives

Nurse Tosiri learned that hand hygiene is the single most essential measure for reducing health care associated infection and cross-contamination – and that increased compliance is especially crucial. “Before, workers would wash their hands only once, and thought that was enough,” she explained. “Now, we wash hands before procedures and after taking off our gloves, and we use antiseptics.”Waste segregation practices have also changed, “Medical waste is now disposed of correctly—before we were mixing all types of waste, but now that awareness has been raised we have procedures for properly segregating medical waste,” she said.A total of 998 health workers, including Nurse Tosiri, have also benefited from the hepatitis B vaccines provided by the program, especially important in Tanzania, where 70 percent of all adults have been infected with the disease. “Now I feel secure that I will be protected from this dangerous virus,” Tosiri said. This knowledge gives her more confidence in her own safety as she cares for patients in the oncology ward each day. Safeguarding against infection is particularly important for workers in developing countries, where staff can be exposed to an average of four needle sticks per year. To keep track of injuries and treatment, AmeriCares supported the updating of the medical centre’s post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) reporting forms. In addition, PEP starter kits are now available at the nursing stations in each ward, and workers are familiar with proper PEP procedure, which can save lives after an injury or needle stick. Nurse Tosiri also credits the Health Worker Safety Initiative with providing coworkers with products that protect them from infection as they care for patients, such as gloves and safety-engineered syringes donated by AmeriCares corporate partners. Hospital conditions have also improved. “When the trainings began, the hospital had many dangerous areas with open sockets, hanging wires and other hazards,” she said. “Now workers are more conscious of those dangers and feel empowered to report them to the hospital management.”Since 2008, AmeriCares has shipped more than $1 million in safety-engineered devices, personal protective equipment and medicines, and has provided $400,000 in financial and project management support to the medical centre in support of the Health Worker Safety Initiative.Donate Now