Establishing Standard Infection Control Precautions

  • Standard infection control precautions consist of appropriate hand hygiene and the use of gloves, gown, mask and eye protection or face shield. Clinicians should wash hands for a minimum of 10-15 seconds at the beginning and end of each shift, before and after each patient, before and after wearing gloves, prior to invasive procedures, after potential contact with microorganisms and whenever soiled.

  • Equipment or items in the patient environment likely to have been contaminated with infectious body fluids must be handled in a manner to prevent transmission of infectious agents. This includes containing heavily soiled equipment, and properly cleaning and disinfecting or sterilizing reusable equipment before use on another patient.

  • A five-step respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette strategy should be implemented to target any person with signs of illness including cough, congestion, rhinorrhea, or increased production of respiratory secretions when entering a healthcare facility.

  • Step One: Educating healthcare facility staff, patients, and visitors about hygiene and cough etiquette. Understanding the principles and rationale behind recommended practices facilitate appropriate decision-making and promote adherence when healthcare workers are faced with new circumstances.

  • Step Two: Post signs in languages appropriate to the population served with instructions to patients and their accompanying family and friends.

  • Step Three: Source control measures, such as covering the mouth/nose with a tissue when coughing, prompt disposal of used tissues, using surgical masks on the coughing person when tolerated and appropriate

  • Step Four: Appropriate hand hygiene after contact with respiratory secretions. This graphic shows the most commonly missed areas during handwashing.

  • Step Five: Implement spatial separation of persons with respiratory infections in common waiting areas, ideally >3 feet, when possible.

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Visits to ambulatory care settings such as primary care offices account for the most patient encounters in any healthcare setting.

Infection control challenges specific to outpatient settings include the high number of patients who remain in common waiting areas for long periods, limited cleaning opportunities, delays in recognizing infectious patients, and overlap between immunocompromised and otherwise healthy patients.

Take a minute to familiarize yourself with the CDC’s guidelines for isolation precautions outlined in this slideshow.


  1. Siegel JD, et al and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. 2007 Guideline for Isolation Precautions: Preventing Transmission of Infectious Agents in Healthcare Settings.

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