Nurses Share 9-Tips To Decontaminate After Working Amid COVID-19
As more patients are heading into hospitals during the COVID-19 outbreak, many nurses are becoming concerned about accidentally infecting their children or elderly family members at home--even nurses who are not working directly with infected patients.
The CDC website states, "it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes."
This has resulted in many healthcare workers developing new decontamination rituals before leaving the hospital -- and again before entering back into their homes.
"I have sanitizing wipes in my car to wipe down my phone and badge, and to clean my steering wheel," states Kendyl Bieble, an operating room nurse.
But some nurses are not taking any chances, choosing to move out of their houses entirely.
"I just don't feel safe exposing my family at all. It's awful and I am desperately missing my family. But I didn't want to risk making them sick. The sacrifices we are making as nurses are immense," states Nikki, RN.
Most nurses do not have the option of temporarily moving out of their homes, but still want to prevent inadvertently spreading the virus to family members. We’ve put together a list of nine things nurses can do to help lessen the chance of accidentally infecting someone at home.
9 Ways To Prevent Carrying COVID-19 Home
1. Leave All Non-essential Items, Like Tote Bags, at Home
According to the World Health Organization, there are two main transmission routes for COVID-19: respiratory and contact.
"Droplets may land on surfaces where the virus could remain viable; thus, the immediate environment of an infected individual can serve as a source of transmission (contact transmission)," the website states.
Bring only what you need to the workplace, such as ID, money, & food, to decrease the risk of transmitting the virus when you return home.
2. Take a Shower as Soon as You Get Home From a Shift
Just as aggressive hand washing prevents transmission via touch, scrubbing in a hot shower will also help get the virus off of your body. Many nurses, especially those working in high-risk areas, should shower immediately upon returning home.
3. If You Have the Option of Taking a Shower at Work, Consider it
When asked about how she has changed her routine after a 12-hour shift, Mellisa B, an ICU nurse and mom of two young kids stated, "I've always left my shoes at work, but now I shower at work too."
4. Disinfect Phones, Pens, Credit Cards, or Anything Else That You Brought to Work
Current evidence suggests that novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials.
The CDC recommends cleaning visibly dirty surfaces with a detergent soap and water before disinfection to prevent transmission of COVID-19 in community settings.
Here are the guidelines for disinfection, from the CDC website:
"For disinfection, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.
Diluted household bleach solutions can be used if appropriate for the surface. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted."
5. Bring a Change of Clothes and Shoes to work, Change Before Leaving Work or Before Entering Your Home
Kendyl, an RN with two children aged 4 and 9, has her own ritual for preventing the spread of COVID-19 to her family.
She wears scrubs to work and then changes into new scrubs for her shift -- then, at the end of her shift, changes back into her original scrubs to leave the hospital. When she gets home, she immediately changes again before entering the house, throws those scrubs into the washing machine, and immediately showers in hot water.
"I do still fear that even my efforts may not be enough because of how easily this virus is spread. But I will continue to do my best, and do whatever I can to protect my family, myself, and my patients," Kendyl states.
6. Leave Work Shoes in a Designated Place (Ideally the Car or Garage)
Change your shoes before you get into the car and put them in a bag in the trunk or garage. Clean them weekly with a strong disinfectant.
7. Hold the Hugs Until You’ve Taken All the Steps Above
Have a conversation about how COVID-19 is transmitted with everyone you live with, including children. Eliminate miscommunication, in advance, by explaining that you need to wait until you disinfect your items and shower before you spend time together.
Consider calling home after a shift to let them know you will be coming in. If you have little ones who are too young to understand, it might be easier to run straight to the bathroom so they can't interact with you until you’ve had a chance to shower.
8. Continue to Follow the Experts
There is misinformation being spread via social media such as Facebook or Pinterest, with "safety hacks" or other ineffective methods of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The two best sources of information at this time are from the CDC or the WHO. If you personally know someone that you are 100% sure is a credible expert in epidemiology you can seek information from them too. Many people seem to “know someone, who knows someone” who is giving information, often with no evidence to back it up.
9. Remember to Ask for Support
The COVID-19 pandemic is increasing anxiety and depression for many people, especially nurses and doctors. Take time to tend to your self-care needs in-between shifts.
The health of our nurses is important! Especially now, as we tackle the COVID-19 crisis, and the demand for nurses is higher than ever. Nurse Jess even went viral on Tik-Tok for sharing her decontamination ritual.