Hospital Decontamination Policies & Procedures

Many hospitals have decontamination policies and procedures in place for disaster-preparedness. Hospital staff are provided with systems and protocols for decontaminating patients during accidents involving hazardous materials as well as disasters occuring from terrorist attacks. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the federal agency that helps hospitals develop decontamination policies and procedures and enforces laws regulating them.

  1. Hospital Staff Procedures

    • When a disaster event occurs that requires decontamination, the hospital staff, or first responders must take the proper precautions to ensure their own safety before they can assist patients. They will have to put on personal protective equipment and go through a medical monitoring assessment that checks such things as their blood pressure, temperature and pulse. First responders must be checked to determine if they are healthy enough to wear the safety garment and assist with decontaminating patients in the decon units set up outside of the hospital.

    Procedures Ambulatory and Unambulatory Patients

    • Patients capable of getting themselves through the decon unit will be given a decon kit and instructions on decontamination procedures. They will have to remove all of their clothing and place the items in the large bag from the decon kit and place any valuables in the clear plastic bag and seal both in the third bag. The bag should be placed in a secure designated area and then they should proceed through the unit only wearing the clothing bag tag that came with the decon kit. A hospital staff member will keep track of each patient going through the decon unit. Using the scrub brush and soap from the kit, they should clean themselves thoroughly while being supervised by hospital staff to make sure they are thorough and to provide assistance if needed. Once completely rinsed, patients should dispose of the soap and brush before continuing to the next zone to dry off and put on a fresh hospital gown.

      Decontamination policies for patients unable to walk on their own include being attended by at least four hospital staff members to be placed on a stretcher or backboard and having their clothing removed and bagged. Staff members will have to wash unambulatory patients, rinse and dry them off before helping them into a clean hospital gown. Staff should be ready to assist patients that may require life-saving support and patients with glasses and/or canes may use them but they must be cleaned during the decontamination process as well.

    Procedures for Young Patients

    • The decontamination procedures vary slightly for patients in the pediatric ward as infants and young children will need additional assistance if a disaster occurs. The staff has to consider the psychological needs of children since they may be too young to understand what is happening and may become afraid. Children are usually given ID wristbands and if their family members are present during a disaster situation every effort will be made to keep them all together during the decontamination process. If possible, children will be assisted with removing clothing by a parent or caregiver of the same gender to consider any modesty and sensitivity issues that may arise. Anyone visiting children in the hospital will have to go through the hospital decontamination procedures as well. The hospital staff will try to keep them together when going through the shower process and hand-held sprayers with lower water pressure may be used on children. Two adults are required to hold infants during the shower procedure to prevent them from slipping and once children have been showered they are to be dried in a towel or blanket to avoid developing hypothermia.

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  • Photo Credit doctor image by Elena Vdovina from Fotolia.com

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