• Isolation Precautions

    IMAGE Some patients need to be isolated from other patients, hospital staff, and visitors due to their illness during their hospital stay. This is because they are carrying harmful microorganisms that have the potential of infecting others. In hospitals, where there are many sick people, preventing the spread of these microorganisms becomes very important. This is because an already ill person may have a harder time fighting this new infection.
    Perhaps your doctor has ordered that you need isolation precautions. This is not intended to be a punishment. The doctor and staff are only trying to protect you and others. But, being isolated may bring about feelings of loneliness or discouragement. Learning more about contact isolation may help you to cope better with your situation.

    Types of Isolation Precautions

    There are a few types of isolation precautions that may be used. For example, if you have an infection that spreads by droplets in the air, people entering your room may need to wear gowns, gloves, and masks. If you have an infection that spreads through touching, people entering your room may only need to wear gowns and gloves.
    The staff may take other measures to prevent spreading infections to others. These may include:
    • Cleaning all surfaces and equipment often
    • Keep only necessary furniture, supplies, and equipment in the room
    • Stocking the sink with hand hygiene products, such as hand sanitizer, soap, paper towels, and gloves
    • Placing an isolation sign on your door
    • Placing protective equipment outside of the room for people to put on before entering
    • Placing disposal bins in your room for wastes, used needles, and linens
    • Keeping the door to your room closed

    Your Visitors and Hospital Staff

    If someone does come into your room, they may also have to wear the appropriate protective equipment that the medical staff is wearing. In addition, they may have to keep personal items away from you and avoid using the restroom in your room.
    Along with protective clothing, staff and visitors will clean their hands, by either washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Studies have shown that hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of diseases.
    Aside from these precautions, there are things you can do to prevent the spread of diseases:
    • Wash your hands properly before and after eating and using the bathroom.
    • When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Throw the tissue away immediately. If you are coughing, your doctor may ask you to wear a mask.

    Communicate Your Concerns

    Although it may seem that everyone around you looks as if they have stepped out of a sci-fi movie, it is important to know that the precautions taken are a part of providing you with the best treatment possible. But, recovery involves more than following safety measures and dispensing medicines. Recovery also requires emotional support and compassionate care from those around you. If at any time you feel lonely, depressed, or agitated due to your isolation, share your concerns with your doctors and nurses so that they can take action to ensure that your time in the hospital is a comfortable one.


    United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov

    United States Department of Health and Human Services http://www.hhs.gov


    Canadian National Occupation Health and Safety Resource http://www.ccohs.ca

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca


    Contact isolation procedures. MedStar Harbor Hospital website. Available at: http://www.harborhospital.org/documents/Contact%5FSign.pdf. Accessed March 14, 2013.

    Landelle C, Pagaini L, Harbarth S. Is patient isolation the single most important measure to prevent the spread of multidrug-resistant pathogens? Virulence. 2013;4(2):163-171.

    Siegel JD, Rhinehart E, Jackson M, Chiarello L; the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. Guideline for isolation precautions: preventing transmission of infectious agents in healthcare settings 2007. Premier website. Available at: http://www.premierinc.org/all/safety/topics/guidelines/downloads/cdc-isolation-2007.pdf. Published 2007. Accessed March 9, 2011.

    Revision Information

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