Although nurses and other medical staff have long been concerned about taking germs home from the hospital, the coronavirus's highly contagious nature has made it more important than ever. Many nurses are concerned about how they can keep themselves and their families healthy while at work and avoid taking germs home. 

Here are eight steps to follow if you're a nurse or other medical professional trying to decontaminate after a long shift:

Be Cautious while on Shift 

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes, and this is particularly true when it comes to germs and contamination. If you inhale droplets or touch your face with a dirty palm, washing your scrubs won't help. Given the supply chain problems, use whatever PPE is available at work and follow prescribed guidelines as much as possible. To prevent disease transmission, follow best practices when interacting with patients and colleagues.

Hands should be washed thoroughly.

Washing your hands is one of the most effective ways you (and everyone else) can reduce disease transmission. Handwashing is often the safest option, but if that isn't practical, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Wet your hands and wash them with soap. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds, paying special attention to the backs of your hands, between your fingertips, around your thumbs, and under your nails. To prevent the water from drying out your skin, clean them thoroughly and fully dry them.

At work, switch up your attire.

Wearing your used scrubs around, even under completely normal circumstances, is not a good idea. This is particularly valid in the event of a pandemic. Carry a clean change of clothes in a sealed plastic bag, as well as a second plastic bag to transport your dirty scrubs home. Before changing into your clean clothes at the end of your shift, wash your face, remove your scrubs, and put them in the dirty bag.

Change your footwear.

Wearing a clean pair of shoes is also a good idea, particularly if you drive to and from work (and doubly so if you share your car with other people). Seal your nursing shoes in a plastic bag and store them in your locker if possible. Put on a different pair of shoes that you can wear to and from the hospital. When you get home, you'll still have to leave these shoes outside the entrance. Wear them outside only! This approach reduces the likelihood of tracking anything harmful into your vehicle.

Scrubs should be cleaned.

When you get home, take off your clothes and immediately place them in the washing machine. After that, make sure to get rid of the bag. Using the hottest water you can find. You can use the sanitized cycle if your washer has one. Take a shower and wipe yourself down as soon as you finish the load so you're as clean as your clothes. After you've finished washing your scrubs (and yourself), place them in the dryer and dry them for at least 30 minutes on the highest level.

Make sure your shoes are clean.

As previously said, if at all necessary, leave your work shoes in a bag outside your house. If they're made of a non-porous material, you can keep them clean by wiping them down with disinfectant after each turn. Check the manufacturer's label for care and cleaning instructions if they're made of cotton, leather, or any material that can't be disinfected. Most nursing shoes can be washed in the washing machine and air-dried, but to avoid damaging the foot, always follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Don't forget your mobile gadgets 

Phones, pagers, and other gadgets are not only essential communication tools, but they also bear germs. Germs can live for a long time on hard surfaces, and we often touch these devices. As a consequence, germs are likely to be present on these instruments. To keep your computer secure from germs, keep it wrapped in a plastic bag during your change if at all necessary. When you get home, wash your face, take the gadget out of the bag, and toss the bag outside in the garbage. Wipe down the phone with a disinfectant wipe, paying particular attention to any crevices where debris might hide. When you're done, throw away the wipe and let the phone dry. Pens, credit cards, and all other hard items that you use at work should also be disinfected.

Consider secluding yourself from the rest of the world.

If you deal with highly infectious patients or live with someone who is at risk of contracting coronavirus, you should consider self-quarantining to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others. Isolating yourself in a separate living area, using your own toilet, or cooking and consuming meals separately are examples of this. If you can't self-isolate in your current living situation, some hotels and Airbnb hosts are offering places to stay at steeply discounted rates, so that might be a choice for you.

Although you may not be able to fully regulate your germ exposure, you should take precautions to protect yourself and anyone you live with from viruses and bacteria. To decontaminate after a long nursing change and reduce the risk of transmitting infectious diseases, follow this eight-step method.

May 12, 2023

Natasha Osei

Passionate Nurse Practitioner | People person
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