Healthcare workers enrol in 'coughing etiquette' course


A COURSE that will teach 200 Irish healthcare workers coughing etiquette and hand hygiene is taking place in Dublin this week.

The week-long infection control course, jointly hosted by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) and the Royal College of Surgeons, will be attended by doctors, nurses, dentists and medical attendants.

Dr Fidelma Fitzpatrick, a consultant clinical microbiologist with the HPSC who is chairing the course, said: “It’s the first time that a course of this kind and on this scale has taken place in Ireland.”

Describing the lecture programme, Dr Fitzpatrick said: “We will cover the basics right from hand hygiene to coughing etiquette. Many of us were taught these things as children, but this is a reminder to health professionals to use a tissue to cover your mouth when coughing, and if you use your hands, be sure to wash them afterwards.”

Health professionals will also hear from microbiology and medical experts on the make-up and habits of hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA and C difficile.

Asked about the apparent increase in such hospital bugs in recent years, Dr Fitzpatrick said: “MRSA has been around since the 1950s but it’s a bug’s job to stay alive, so they’re constantly adapting to resist antibiotics.

“The more antibiotics we use, the more bugs develop resistance, so we need to proscribe them wisely,”she added. “We’ve also got better at keeping people alive for longer. This means managing sicker, higher-risk patients whose immune systems aren’t as strong.”

The final day of the conference, which is free of charge to health professionals and is fully subscribed, will look at audit and quality improvement practices in healthcare settings.

Dr Fitzpatrick said: “We’re coming into the peak season for viral bugs now. Many of them survive better in colder weather, so washing hands and coughing etiquette is critical.”

Dr Fitzpatrick said all the speakers were giving their time free and the college had donated the use of its lecture theatre. “There is less funding for education now, so this conference shows what people can do.”