by Brian P. Randall, MD and Marjorie Montemayor-Quellenberg, MA
Some patients need to be isolated from other patients, hospital staff, and visitors due to their illness during their hospital stay. This is because they are carrying harmful microorganisms that have the potential of infecting others. In hospitals, preventing the spread of these microorganisms becomes important. This is because an already ill person may have a harder time fighting a new infection.
Perhaps your doctor has ordered that you need isolation precautions. This is not intended to be a punishment. The doctor and staff are only trying to protect you and others. But, being isolated may bring about feelings of loneliness or discouragement. Learning more about contact isolation may help you cope better with your situation.
Types of Isolation Precautions
There are a few types of isolation precautions that may be used. For example, if you have an infection that spreads by droplets in the air, people entering your room may need to wear gowns, gloves, and masks. If you have an infection that spreads through touching, people entering your room may only need to wear gowns and gloves.
The staff may take other measures to prevent spreading infections to others. These may include:
Your Visitors and Hospital Staff
If someone does come into your room, they may also have to wear the appropriate protective equipment that the medical staff is wearing. In addition, they may have to keep personal items away from you and avoid using the restroom in your room.
Along with protective clothing, staff and visitors will clean their hands by either washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Studies have shown that hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of diseases.
Wash your hands properly before and after eating and using the bathroom. When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Throw the tissue away immediately. If you are coughing, your doctor may ask you to wear a mask.
Communicate Your Concerns
Although it may seem that everyone around you looks as if they have stepped out of a sci-fi movie, it is important to know that the precautions taken are a part of providing you with the best treatment possible. But, recovery involves more than following safety measures and dispensing medicines. Recovery also requires emotional support and compassionate care from those around you. If at any time you feel lonely, depressed, or agitated due to your isolation, share your concerns with your doctors and nurses so that they can take action to ensure that your time in the hospital is a comfortable one.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
US Department of Health and Human Services
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Landelle C, Pagaini L, Harbarth S. Is patient isolation the single most important measure to prevent the spread of multidrug-resistant pathogens? Virulence. 2013;4(2):163-171.
Infection prevention and control recommendations for hospitalized patients under investigation for ebola virus disease in US hospitals. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
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Updated September 3, 2015. Accessed February 2, 2017.
Last reviewed February 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 3/14/2013
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