One of my goals is to learn more about the work that infection preventionists (IPs) do on a daily basis, the challenges they face, and how they overcome them. "Interview an IP" is a project that we recently launched to let IPs share their stories with us and with each other. I am very grateful to Lisa Pope for taking the time to participate in our "Interview an IP" project. Below is her story.
Name: Lisa Pope, RN, BSN (Graduating with MSN in December 2010)
Number of years of infection prevention experience: 3 years
Which department does infection prevention come under at your hospital? Total Quality Management
1. How did you become interested in infection control?
As an RN I was looking to grow professionally in nursing but continue to have a positive effect on patient care. As I complete my Masters Degree I find myself increasingly interested in the way in which the hospital operates on a daily basis and how day-to-day operations impact the quality of care, treatments, and services a patient receives. I actually began as the Joint Commission Coordinator and was asked to take on the responsibility of Infection Prevention a few months later when the position was vacated. I can’t say I ever considered this department before but I am happy to be in the role I am in today and having the opportunity to have such a large impact on patient stays.
2. Tell us a little bit about your hospital and your work
We are a 25 bed acute care hospital located in Michigan that has adopted the Planetree approach to care giving. A model of patient-centered care in a healing environment, staff is committed to improving medical care from the patient’s perspective, empowering patients and families through education, information and encouraging healing partnerships with caregivers. The hospital offers a newly renovated emergency department with private treatment rooms, an expanded medical imaging department, a regional cancer treatment center and an Eden Care award winning 54-bed Skilled Nursing facility. The hospital has been recognized for its quality care by the Michigan Quality Improvement Organization and has earned the Governor’s Award of Excellence for Improving Care in the Hospital Setting for 4 consecutive years, the Total Benchmark Solution quality award for 2005, and the 2006 and 2007 VHA Leadership Award for clinical excellence.
In my roles, I am responsible for the daily survey preparation coordination for our Joint Commission deemed status, all infection prevention activities, including surveillance, staff and patient education programs, process improvement, IP committee chair, and quality improvement activities for our facility with professional organizations such as MPRO, MHA, and Keystone. I am also responsible for the Employee Health department which involves surveillance of needle stick injury and exposures, new hire/volunteer/intern pre-employment health screening, communicable disease reporting and policy/procedure improvement efforts.
3. What are the top three infection prevention challenges at your hospital?
The top three infection prevention challenges in our facility are reaching all staff members with IP education that is tailored to their specific department needs, accountability for compliance with issues such as Infection Prevention strategies, and compliance with newly updated procedures for issues such as needle stick injury. Change is always difficult and when you bring a multitude of changes in a close time frame it is difficult for everyone to adhere to. Just keeping the most up to date information in front of their faces is often very difficult; even in a small facility.
4. How do you engage leadership to help achieve identified outcomes? Please provide a recent initiative, highlights, and lessons learned
Engaging leadership in a small facility is often very difficult as we all wear multiple hats so we have multiple tasks in front of us each day. Getting a leader who is pulled in multiple directions to focus on “your” tasks takes a lot of one-on-one dedication. You need to be skilled in knowing how to facilitate a lot of what you are asking them to help you with. I find that bringing as much research evidence to the meeting, or providing it ahead of time, helps move the meeting along and gives them an opportunity to come prepared with questions and following up with them is crucial.
Two years ago I began giving hand hygiene education in our local schools as a project for my master’s degree class. While there I discovered that the school had taken money away from their budget that had previously gone to soaps and sanitizers for the classrooms. That left the students and teachers to provide it. This is a low income area so that could be next to impossible for most families. I returned to work to begin discussing with them our opportunity to practice our mission “To improve the health of the communities we serve” and suggested we provide hand sanitizer stations in each classroom and common area. This would be a large financial undertaking but I managed to get EcoLab to donate the sanitizer stations and their staff’s time if we purchased the sanitizer. That provided a significant savings. After having open discussions with Senior Leaders about the benefits of not only teaching hand hygiene to the young but providing them with the necessary tools, they were quick to approve the initiative. Since that time the initiative has come to include a free influenza vaccine clinic that allows access to vaccination to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it. We have seen a great decrease in the number of flu-like symptom illnesses in our local schools. This year we are reaching or to two more local schools to begin to cover our coverage area.
5. How have patient safety initiatives and state reporting impacted you and your facility?
We are very conscientious of best practice initiatives and strive to set the standard for other facilities such as ours so patient safety reporting has not had a huge impact on our facility. Our quality department has some of the finest employees who dedicate a lot of time and attention to our patient’s safety.
6. If you could impact infection control at a national level, what would you do?
If I could impact Infection Prevention at a national level I could easily see myself working in some capacity on Capitol Hill pitching process improvements that would change the way all facilities practice. I believe that every Infection Preventionist should have a standard of practice that should not be deviated from but should be modified to meet the specific need of the community it serves. Hand hygiene best practice should never be a topic of conversation just because one manager or department head thinks it is too tedious of a practice for their staff. It is what is best for our patients and we should never question that…especially if the experts are providing us with the evidence to back it up.