How to Keep Patients Infection Free

Following are thoughts on the value of infection control and prevention by guest author, Lynne V. Karanfil, RN, MA, CIC, Corporate Director, Infection Prevention, MedStar Health-Corporate Quality & Safety, Faculty Associate|National Center for Human Factors Engineering in Healthcare

Joint Commission requires every hospital to have an infection control program. Most of those programs are led by an infection preventionist (IP), formerly called an infection control professional. This person is usually a nurse, microbiologist or epidemiologist, and occasionally a physician who has received additional training in preventing infections.

Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 10.21.55 AM

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) has just celebrated its 40th anniversary. During the annual APIC conference in June, leadership recognized the importance of infection control in hospitals in their opening session. Following are a few highlights from the speaker’s presentations. (For more information on APIC, and for a history of infection prevention, click here to visit their website).

CDC’s Dr Arjun Srinivasan, Associate Director for Healthcare Associated Infection Prevention Programs, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion indicated it is fine to monitor infection rates but asked, “What do the numbers actually mean, and how do we use those numbers to guide change?” He shared that guiding this change usually falls under the role and responsibility of an infection preventionist. He advised the audience that, “This is the time for infection prevention”, and challenged those leading change to move these efforts forward throughout the next decade.  He also talked about the value of Antibiotic Stewardship, sharing that we are quickly running out of effective treatments for resistant organisms. Prevention, he shared, is what remains. Prevention is one tool we can always improve upon, and we need to do whatever we can to prevent these multi-drug resistant organisms from causing harm to patients. That we can’t stand by and watch our patients die from infections we can’t treat, especially when they could have been prevented in the first place.

Denise Murphy, RN, MPH, CIC, and Vice President, Quality and Patient Safety Main Line Health System went on to describe the “people bundles” that can help prevent infections. People bundles are safety behaviors and tools that help enforce these prevention efforts, such as:

  1. Paying attention to detail
  2. Speaking up for safety
  3. Stopping the line
  4. Empowering members to challenge folks when they are not doing the right thing.

To truly prevent adverse events and infection, we need to study what causes people to make errors, or unable to comply with safety guidelines, she emphasized.

So how are we going to make a hospital stay safer for our patients? We need to take responsibility for our own health, all of us whether patient or caregiver. Every healthcare provider needs to own his or her behavior, and speak up for safety when witnessing anything that could endanger a patient. If you as a patient, or healthcare worker, see a provider that fails to wash his or her hands, or practice hand hygiene, say something! Leaders also need to hold staff accountable.

Each hospital needs a champion to lead this work. We can prevent many infections but we need the infrastructure to do this job well. And as Patti Grant RN, BSN, MS, CIC, current APIC President indicated in her speech at the conference in Ft Lauderdale ……the public needs to demand the presence of infection preventionists in hospitals!

From my perspective, we are doing battle today. Our enemy is healthcare associated infections and the organism that cause these infections. Public enemy #1 is C difficile, an easily transmittable organism that causes unrelenting diarrhea. And then there is the resistant bacteria like carbapenem resistant Enterobacteriaceae, most commonly E. coli and K. pneumonia, that have virtually no treatment and a high mortality for bloodstream infections. To do battle you need appropriate resources, which include knowledgeable people and the right equipment. The time is now to arm our healthcare providers with what they need to prevent these infections altogether.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s