It's normal to get caught up in the efforts to protect patients from nosocomial infections and other hospital- or facility-borne illness, but it is equally as important to remember that you are also protecting yourself from the spread of disease.
Hand washing is the most effective form of infection control and a standard precaution. You need to wash your hands before and after contact with each patient. You also need to wash your hands between the dirty and clean aspects of procedures such as dressing changes. If you touch your mouth or your hair, you need to wash again. If you handle equipment or trash, you need to wash your hands.
Every door handle and bed rail you touch will harbor germs. And, of course, after you visit the bathroom, you must wash your hands. This not only helps to stop the spread of infections and bacteria between patients, it helps to eliminate you as the middle man from becoming contaminated and getting sick. If you contaminate a surface, you need to follow your facility's protocols for cleaning it. This is often done with a diluted bleach solution.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn to protect you from splashes or other exposure to bodily fluids that may be infected with such diseases as HIV, AIDS, or hepatitis. This equipment can be worn any time exposure to a patient's illness could cause you undue risk.
Don't forget to teach your patients proper hygiene habits such as covering their mouths and noses when they cough or sneeze. Teach them to place their tissues in a bedside trash bag instead of leaving them all over the bed. Teach them to wash their hands when they cough or sneeze and to use the tissue.
Encourage them to have a bedside waterless hand sanitizer available if they can't get out of bed easily or if they cough or sneeze frequently. Instruct them to follow this at home as well to avoid infecting family members or re-infecting themselves. If you work diligently to eliminate the germs that you can be exposed to, you will reduce your own chances of catching something.