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As a nurse, you must know the different types of illnesses requiring airborne and droplet precautions. Precautions are put in place to protect the wellbeing of patients and health care personnel.
Think of the mnemonic MTV for airborne infections and PIMP for droplet infections.
- Varicella (chickenpox)
Airborne vs Droplet Precautions
Airborne precautions are used to prevent the transmission of infectious agents that can be spread through the air over long distances, such as tuberculosis (TB), measles, and chickenpox. These infectious agents are small enough to remain suspended in the air for extended periods of time, and can be inhaled by individuals in close proximity to the source of infection.
To prevent the spread of airborne infections, health care workers should use N95 respirators or similar masks that filter out small particles, as well as negative-pressure rooms to contain the infectious agent.
On the other hand, droplet precautions are used to prevent the transmission of infectious agents that are spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Examples of infectious agents that are spread through droplets include influenza, pertussis, and meningococcal disease.
To prevent the spread of droplet infections, health care workers should wear surgical masks, and patients should be isolated in private rooms with closed doors.
Taking the NCLEX? Read our Precautions NCLEX Review here.
With droplet precautions, we have another television reference to help you remember the diseases involved. The word that you have to keep in mind is PIMP, like the show, “Pimp My Ride,” hosted by Xzibit (where they repair and customize old, dilapidated vehicles).
Though this word can be inappropriate, when it comes to recalling important nursing topics, conjuring up words or mnemonics that can help you remember, to the point of passing the exam is necessary. Just don’t use this when interacting with patients or other professionals; this acronym is created to remember the different droplet precautions effectively.
So, PIMP stands for:
- Pertussis or whooping cough
- Influenza or the flu
- Meningitis (bacterial or viral)
Let’s go through these conditions one by one.
Pertussis is also known as whooping cough, a highly communicable disease that manifests as a deep, seal bark.
Influenza, also known as the flu, is a contagious lung illness, much like getting a common cold but more severe and deadlier. This condition also requires a flu vaccine to prevent progression into H1N1.
Meningitis can either be bacterial or viral. Bacterial meningitis is the worst that one can have because of its highly infectious nature. Meningitis occurs when the meninges inside the brain become inflamed, and the patient will complain about a severe headache.
Meningitis is diagnosed by acquiring spinal fluid through a spinal tap or a lumbar puncture. Then, the spinal fluid will be sent to the laboratory for testing.
Pneumonia is an airway infection of the deep portions of the lungs and is also considered the primary killer complication of people who have undergone surgery. To prevent this condition, nurses instruct their post-operative patients and immobile patients to turn, cough, and deep breathe to cause re-expansion of the alveoli and prevent collapse. If the alveoli collapses, the infection will settle in and cause pneumonia.
To easily remember the conditions requiring airborne precautions, you just have to keep in mind: MTV. MTV stands for that popular channel, Music Television. MTV is a cable channel that’s on air 24/7.
So, that’s your first clue: MTV is on air.
Airborne means that a person can easily get afflicted by merely breathing the same air or being exposed to an infected individual in the same vicinity – whether inside a bathroom, a car, or any closed space.
The next clue for you to remember is that MTV stands for:
- MMR or measles, mumps, rubella
- Varicella (chickenpox)
Note that varicella or chicken pox, mumps, and rubella are also transmitted through contact with people with the condition.
MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) is a highly contagious viral disease that spreads through respiratory droplets. It can cause serious complications such as pneumonia, encephalitis, and even death. Prevention of MMR involves vaccination, which is recommended for all individuals unless they have a contraindication.
Health care workers should ensure they have received the MMR vaccine and follow droplet precautions when caring for patients with suspected or confirmed MMR infection. patients with MMR should be isolated in droplet isolation precautions until they are no longer contagious.
TB is a bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body. The infectiousness of TB is related to the number of droplet nuclei carrying M. tuberculosis (tubercle bacilli) that are expelled into the air. These tiny particles can remain suspended in the air for several hours, depending on the environment.
M. tuberculosis is transmitted through the air, not by surface contact. Infection occurs when a person inhales droplet nuclei containing M. tuberculosis, and the droplet nuclei travel into the mouth or nasal passages, upper respiratory tract, and bronchi to reach the lungs’ alveoli.
TB prevention involves vaccination with the Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, which is not widely used in the United States. In healthcare settings, TB infection control measures include administrative controls such as early detection and isolation of patients with TB, and environmental controls such as negative pressure rooms and ventilation systems.
Health care workers should use N95 respirators or similar masks and follow airborne precautions when caring for patients with suspected or confirmed TB infection.
Chickenpox is a viral infection that causes a blister-like rash, itching, and fever. It is highly contagious and spreads through aerosolized respiratory droplets and contact with the rash. Unlike droplet diseases, chicken pox involves aerosolized respiratory droplets which can travel in the air for hours.
Prevention of chickenpox involves vaccination, which is recommended for all individuals unless they have a contraindication. Health care workers should ensure that they have received the chickenpox vaccine or have had the disease in the past. patients with chickenpox should be isolated in private rooms with airborne and contact precautions until they are no longer contagious.
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