Hospitalized patients diagnosed with Clostridium Difficile (C Diff), Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), or other infectious diseases are usually placed in contact isolation. The upside to that is a private room, the downside is that for long hospital stays the patient experience can feel like solitary confinement.
Hospital employees must don gowns and gloves before entering the patient’s room, which requires the expenditure of two valuable and limited hospital resources, money and time.
I spent some time recently with a patient in contact isolation. Every time an IV beeped, or a food tray needed to be brought in or taken out of the room, or the patient rang the call bell, staff would open the cabinet outside the patient’s room and place a yellow paper gown over their clothing, and blue gloves on their hands. Often they stayed in the room less than a minute, after which they took off the gown and gloves, placed them in a special trash recepticle, washed their hands and left.
While I understand and support the need for contact isolation, I couldn’t help but wonder how much all those gowns and gloves cost, multiplied by all the patients in the hospital whose care required them. I also wondered how effective they are, especially since many times staff don’t take the time to tie the gowns in the back.
I also realized that, understandably, staff didn’t come into the room unless there was a definite need. I suspect that there were many days in this patient’s long hospitalization that she barely had a conversation with anyone. Visitors were few and far between; her friends asked about her, but were often too fearful of “picking up a bug” to stop by the hospital and visit.
What I learned from this experience is that if you know someone whose care requires contact isolation and you feel you can’t visit in person (although taking the time to educate yourself about prevention may make you feel more comfortable about that), at least give them a call or drop them a note. Isolation can be a lonely experience.
Related article from Healthleaders Media: For Infection Prevention Try Duct-Tape.