Friday, December 10, 2010
“Germ Cops” or “Prophets in the Wilderness”?
Recently, there’s been a story floating around about infection prevention practices at University of Maryland Medical Center. The success that UMMC has had is remarkable, to be sure. What is even more remarkable is the variety of interesting terms journalists use to describe the job of infection prevention. If you Google articles related to the UMMC story, you get labels varying from “Germ cop” to “Germ inspector” to “eagle-eyed hospital worker” and even “prophets in the wilderness.”
In Atul Gawande’s 2007 book Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance, the first chapter highlights the role of the infection preventionist, describing a day-in-the-life of Brigham and Women’s IP Deb Yokoe. Gawande quotes Yokoe as saying “I don’t want to be an infection control cop.” At the 2010 APIC keynote when Gawande repeated the same quote, an auditorium full of IPs applauded the sentiment. Perhaps the Associated Press writers should pick their headlines with more sensitivity, though I understand these labels demonstrate a flare for the sensational.
I will leave it up to individual IPs to describe how they view their job, and how they’d like to be viewed. I do know that IPs want to shed the sometimes adversarial relationship they have with other health care workers, and they want to be seen as partners in providing better quality care.