Healthcare-Associated Infections What Are They and How Can You Prevent Them?

Healthcare-associated infections

Understanding Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs) and Their Impact 

HAIs are infections that patients acquire during, or shortly after, receiving healthcare in hospitals, clinics, or other healthcare facilities. HAIs are a significant concern for healthcare safety, ranking among the leading causes of unnecessary death and avoidable harm for patients receiving medical care, and often result in severe health complications, prolonged hospitals stays, and increased medical costs. Beyond individual patient outcomes and healthcare costs, HAIs pose broader public health challenges, including the emergence and spread of antimicrobial-resistant pathogens, significantly impacting the ability to effectively treat infections.
At Project Firstline Mississippi, understanding, educating and mitigating HAIs is paramount to improving patient outcomes and ensuring the safety of both patients and healthcare workers. Although significant progress has been made in preventing HAIs, additional work is necessary to maintain safety in healthcare.
When patients are undergoing medical treatment in healthcare facilities, they’re susceptible to infections for several reasons, such as compromised immune systems, invasive medical procedures, and exposure to contaminated healthcare environments. Common examples of HAIs include:
  • Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections (CLABSI) 
  • Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections (CAUTI) 
  • Surgical Site Infections (SSI) 
  • Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia (VAP) 
  • Clostridioides Difficile Infections (CDI)

On any given day in the U.S., approximately 1 in 31 hospital patients and 1 in 43 nursing home residents contracts a healthcare-associated infection. 1

The Role of Project Firstline Mississippi 

Project Firstline Mississippi’s mission is to reduce the spread of infectious diseases by ensuring that infection control education is readily available to healthcare workers of all levels; and HAIs are a key area of attention and focus in these efforts. Utilizing the information, techniques and protocols shared by Project Firstline Mississippi in your workplace can make a critical difference in any healthcare facility’s ability to prevent HAIs. Healthcare facilities can reduce the number of patients affected by HAIs by establishing an infection control program that implements the following seven components:  

1. Surveillance and Data Collection 

Successful infection prevention programs rely on robust surveillance systems to track HAIs. Data collection helps identify infection trends, pinpoint outbreak sources and gauge the effectiveness of prevention efforts. Continuous monitoring and reporting are essential for timely interventions and improvements. 

2. Education and Training 

Education and training are consistently needed in promoting best practices among healthcare workers. Infection prevention programs regularly conduct training sessions focusing on essential topics such as hand hygiene, proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), disinfection protocols, and other critical infection control measures.   

3. Policy Development and Implementation 

Developing and implementing evidence-based policies and protocols is fundamental to an infection prevention program. These policies address areas such as hand hygiene, isolation precautions, antimicrobial stewardship, and cleaning and disinfection procedures. Adherence to these policies ensures a standardized approach to infection prevention. 

4. Hand Hygiene 

Hand hygiene is one of the easiest yet most effective ways to prevent HAIs. By emphasizing the importance of consistent and appropriate hand washing and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers we can significantly reduce infection rates. Monitoring compliance with hand hygiene protocols involves a multifaceted approach through direct observation and/or automated monitoring systems.

5. Antimicrobial Stewardship 

The increased threat of antimicrobial resistance presents a significant challenge. In efforts to combat this, infection prevention initiatives advocate for the cautious administration of antibiotics to deter the emergence and spread of resistant organisms. These efforts encompass recommendations for appropriate antibiotic usage and strategies for de-escalation.

6. Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection 

Regular and thorough cleaning of healthcare environments is essential. Dedicated programs ensure that high-touch surfaces, patient rooms, medical equipment, etc. are cleaned and disinfected using appropriate protocols and products.  

7. Isolation Precautions 

Implementing isolation precautions for patients with contagious infections helps to prevent the transmission of pathogens. This involves providing private rooms, using specialized personal protective equipment (PPE) and allocating dedicated equipment when needed. 

Challenges in HAI Prevention 

Addressing the problem of HAIs requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses infection prevention and control strategies, antimicrobial stewardship initiatives, and ongoing surveillance and monitoring efforts. Healthcare facilities must implement rigorous protocols for hand hygiene, environmental cleaning, and sterilization of medical equipment to minimize the risk of transmission. Antimicrobial stewardship programs play a crucial role in promoting judicious antibiotic use and combating the spread of antimicrobial resistance. Additionally, public health interventions, such as vaccination campaigns and community education programs, can help reduce the incidence of certain HAIs. 


HAIs remain a formidable challenge, however, through the implementation of a dedicated infection prevention program, healthcare facilities can greatly mitigate risks and improve patient outcomes. Continuous education, such as through Project Firstline’s training modules, adherence to best practices, and commitment to quality care, form the foundation of a successful infection prevention strategy. By prioritizing the prevention of HAIs, we can establish safer healthcare environments for both patients and healthcare workers. Access valuable and helpful resources at


[1] “HAI and Antimicrobial Use Prevalence Surveys.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 

Project Firstline Heroes Logo

Do you know a healthcare worker in your community who inspires you to keep others safe from infection?

Here’s your chance to nominate them as a Project Firstline Hero!