Infection Prevention: Three Methods to Help Prevent MRSA & Staph in Rehab Departments

According to research, the risk associated with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has been decreasing in intensive care units as of late; however, MRSA and other staph infections have been increasing in rehab departments

While a decrease of cases in intensive care units is promising, the fact that cases have increased in rehab departments is troubling as these spaces are crucial for patient recovery. Patients undergoing rehab should be provided with safe areas to rehabilitate when recovering from illness, injury, or injection. Infection preventionists must be proactive when fighting against staph and MRSA to provide these required safe spaces for patients.

Let’s look at three methods in which hospital rehab departments can help prevent staph and MRSA infections. 

Promote Hand Hygiene

The practice of proper hand hygiene is a simple and integral part of infection prevention. However, according to the Word Health Organization (WHO), following proper hand hygiene is not commonly practiced in outpatient healthcare settings like outpatient rehab departments: “The culture of infection prevention and control, including hand hygiene, does not seem to be well established among the highest priorities in outpatient care settings around the world.”

In the WHO guide on infection prevention, several studies are cited showing a clear link between hand hygiene and infection prevention. One study of rehabilitation hospitals in France found that there is a strong association between proper hand hygiene protocols and the prevention of MRSA. Another study compared inpatient units where hand sanitizer was introduced and units where it was not available, resulting in a 30 percent decrease in infection rates where hand sanitizer was introduced. According to the CDC’s Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings, nine studies also demonstrate a relationship between improved hand hygiene adherence and control of multidrug-resistant organisms in inpatient settings. 

With these findings in mind, healthcare workers in rehab departments should have access to and regularly use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. In fact, the CDC recommends this protocol as it protects against a broad range of pathogens and increases compliance. 

Five Moments Approach

The WHO recommends promoting the “My Five Moments” approach where hand hygiene is required:

  1. Before touching a patient
  2. Before a clean/aseptic procedure
  3. After a body fluid exposure risk
  4. After touching a patient
  5. After touching a patient’s surroundings

Additional measures for healthcare workers include hanging signs to promote proper hand hygiene, conducting regular audits or surveys, and setting official hand hygiene policies. Patients and visitors should also be encouraged to participate, especially in outpatient settings where a large number of patients, family, and healthcare workers pass daily. 

Take Part in Continuing Education and Reporting

Preventing the spread of infection at rehab facilities requires a proactive approach in light of the continuous flow of people in and out. This means it is necessary to have at least one person who is trained specifically in infection prevention. Policies for preventing infection should be developed and well documented for all employees; however, establishing policies is not enough. Instead, they should be refined with evidence-based guidelines provided by the CDC and WHO and reassessed every year.

Ongoing education and competency-based training is critical for ensuring policies for infection protection are understood and followed according to the CDC. It is recommended to train at orientation and then annually to maintain compliance. Competencies should be documented during each training session for accountability. Also, rehab departments should be current on any local, state, and federal requirements for HAI monitoring, reportable diseases, and outbreak reporting—which is particularly important in the case of MRSA.

Use Improved Medical Devices

Medical devices are another major way infection can spread inside rehab departments as many programs require reusing devices and equipment like electrodes and heat packs for multiple patients. As a result, there is an increased potential to spread bacteria per each use, even when used on the same patient. Research in the Hospital Pharmacist estimates the risk of death is seven times more likely for patients exposed to reusable medical devices. 

To help reduce risk, it is recommended to use better, safer devices like the MicroBlock antimicrobial electrode. It kills and inhibits the growth of bacteria on and around electrodes. According to independent testing, its antimicrobial gel is more than 99 percent effective in reducing MRSA bacteria. It’s also effective against E. Cloacae (CRE), E. Coli (ESBL),  E. Faecalis (VRE), P. Aeruginosa and A. Baumannii (Multidrug Resistant). The gel demonstrated more than a 4 log10 reduction against each of these microorganisms—the standard for measuring infection prevention. 

In addition, heat packs with improved designs like the HydraHeat can help reduce the risk of MRSA or staph bacteria spreading. These packs have a non-porous, bacteria-resistant skin that helps reduce the risk of bacterial attachment and allows rehabilitation therapy at an appropriate temperature.

These infection prevention practices are simple but effective and can help healthcare workers provide a safe environment and improve outcomes for their patients. Most importantly, these practices can stop patients from becoming another staph or MRSA statistic. 

This content was originally posted by Richmar at and is used with permission.

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