LEARNING OBJECTIVE: I d e n t i f y
environmental hygiene concerns in a medical
Todays public is very much aware of the
environment and its effect on the health and comfort of
human beings. The healthcare setting is a unique
environment and has a distinct character of its own.
You need to be aware of that character and ensure that
the environment will support the optimum in health
maintenance, care, and rehabilitation.
In the context of the environment, hygiene may
best be described as practices that provide a healthy
Basically, environmental hygiene
practices include the following three areas of concern:
safety (which has already been addressed);
environmental comfort and stimuli; and, finally,
infection control (which will be discussed briefly here,
but in greater detail later in this chapter under Medical
Asepsis). You have certain responsibilities for
helping to control the facilitys general environment as
well as the patients immediate surroundings.
CONCURRENT AND TERMINAL
Maintaining cleanliness is a major responsibility
of all members of the healthcare team, regardless of
their position on the team. Cleanliness not only
provides for patient comfort and a positive stimulus, it
also impacts on infection control. The Hospital
Corpsman is often directly responsible for the
maintenance of patient care areas. The management of
cleanliness in patient care areas is conducted
concurrently and terminally. Concurrent cleaning is
the disinfection and sterilization of patient supplies
and equipment during hospitalization.
cleaning is the disinfection and sterilization of patient
supplies and equipment after the patient is discharged
from the unit or hospital. Both concurrent and terminal
cleaning are extremely important procedures that not
only aid the patients comfort and psychological
outlook, but also contribute to both efficient physical
care and control of the complications of illness and
Aesthetically, an uncluttered look is far more
appealing to the eye than an untidy one. Other
environmental factors,such as color and noise, can also
enhance or hinder the progress of a persons physical
condition. In the past, almost all healthcare facilities
used white as a basic color for walls and bedside
equipment. However, research has shown that the use
of color is calming and restful to the patient, and, as has
been previously stated, rest is a very important healing
agent in any kind of illness. Noise control is another
environmental element that requires your attention.
The large number of people and the amount of
equipment traffic in a facility serve to create a high
noise level that must be monitored. Add to that the
noise of multiple radios and televisions, and it is
understandable why noise control is necessary if a
healing environment is to be created and maintained.
Another important aspect of environmental
hygiene is climate control. Many facilities use air
conditioning or similar control systems to maintain
proper ventilation, humidity, and temperature control.
In facilities without air conditioning, windows should
be opened from the top and bottom to provide for
cross-ventilation. Ensure that patients are not located
in a drafty area. Window sill deflectors or patient
screens are often used to redirect drafty airflows.
Maintain facility temperatures at recommended
energy-conservation levels that are also acceptable as
In addition to
maintaining a healthy climate, good ventilation is
necessary in controlling and eliminating disagreeable
odors. In cases where airflow does not control odors,
room fresheners should be discretely used. Offensive,
odor-producing articles (such as soiled dressings, used
bedpans, and urinals) should be removed to
appropriate disposal and disinfecting areas as rapidly
as possible. Objectionable odors (such as bad breath or
perspiration of patients) are best controlled by proper
personal hygiene and clean clothing.
Natural light is important in the care of the sick.
Sunlight usually brightens the area and helps to
improve the mental well-being of the patient.
However, light can be a source of irritation if it shines
directly in the patients eyes or produces a glare from
the furniture, linen, or walls. Adjust shades or blinds