Safe handling and disposal of human excreta, protecting the nurse, and the patient
Understanding the human body’s elimination of waste is an integral part of basic nursing training and education.
Elimination is a basic physiological need and a process whereby the human body rids itself of waste products. There are four mechanisms that the body uses to eliminate waste, including sweating, expiration via the lungs, excretion of urine and expulsion of faeces.1
A nurse has a responsibility to:
• Assist a patient with elimination as and when required.
• Treat a patient with dignity and respect whilst facilitating elimination.
• Note and record a patient’s intake and output.
• Assess, note, record, and report any abnormalities related to elimination.
According to Geyer et al.1 failure to note and record elimination abnormalities may lead to an incorrect diagnosis. Elimination abnormalities may indicate a change in a patient’s condition. The nurse is often required to observe, at times obtain specimens of and dispose of human excreta. These tasks can pose a risk to the nurse, to the environment and consequently to other patients.