This year’s virtual APIC 2021 discussion unanimously placed a well-deserved spotlight on the life-saving, all-hands-on-deck efforts performed by the infection prevention and control (IPC) professionals on the front lines of the pandemic. As infection preventionists (IPs) and their colleagues certainly know, their work - long before COVID-19, has been mission critical to safeguarding healthcare.
Now, the focus must remain on IPs, ensuring they have adequate resources and support to continue driving impact.
Here are three helpful insights to help hospital leaders support the future of infection prevention:
1. Infection preventionists were unsung heroes, before COVID-19:
Most Americans who don’t work in healthcare are unfamiliar with infection preventionists and the critical role they play in monitoring and standardizing safety in healthcare to eliminate avoidable harm for patients and staff. Even within healthcare settings, their work has largely been conducted behind-the scenes, often understating their tangible impact on both safety and the bottom line.
IPs are experts in transmission, prevention, training, and often interpreters of nuanced, ever-changing guidance for current and novel infectious risks. Through our own work with IPs on a daily basis, we know that they are responsible for not only tracking, reporting, and reducing hospital-acquired infection (HAI) rates, but also tasked with developing the programs to drive culture change across an organization. Over the past decade, an increased need for better transparency around patient safety, coupled with progressive, mandatory reporting requirements, and an increased demand to meet the evolving expectations of healthcare consumers - have long required that IPs wear several hats.
2. Infection preventionists are drinking from the firehose:
The pressures on IPs were many before an all-hands-on-deck pandemic compounded them immeasurably. Several important discussions during APIC 2021 emphasized the immediate need to support the mental and emotional well-being of IPs who are undoubtedly burnt out. When COVID-19 overwhelmed infection control programs, hospital leaders and healthcare workers quickly turned to IPs for their expertise, revealing a lack of confidence and knowledge needed for basic infection prevention practices among staff. IPs were there to step in.
Now, as fluctuating cases and new variants require hospitals to remain vigilant - amidst attempts to recover, IPs are expected to return to their normal responsibilities, ensuring readiness to respond to COVID-19 and other novel outbreaks. This transition was noted by many during APIC 2021, as a 'recipe for disaster.' “We are concerned about whether we will see [growth of the infection prevention profession],” says Ann Marie Pettis, RN, BSN, CIC, president of APIC. “We know we have an aging-out group of IPs and nurses. Will [the pandemic] accelerate that?
3. Investments toward safety technology are essential to support the future of infection prevention and control:
The escalation of COVID-19 has forced hospitals and other healthcare facilities to evaluate preparedness levels, which confirmed that many needed to make important changes to their infection prevention strategies. This realization has placed an emphasis on the need to standardize infection prevention protocols. In order to drive scalable, data-driven programs, many hospitals are turning to safety technology solutions, such as electronic hand hygiene monitoring and automated contact tracing, in order to drive material change. However limited resources to invest in these solutions have left too many infection preventionists without the power to advocate for innovation.
Looking for ways to support your organization's infection prevention and control teams? Hospital leaders must place trust in their expert opinion on what resources are needed to make their jobs more efficient, and to ensure that growth among the profession is strong.
Download our Roadmap to discover the ways safety technology can support IPs in building data-driven infection prevention programs that protect staff, patients, and your organization's bottom line.
Thank you to all who visited our virtual booth at APIC 2021! If we missed you, let's continue the conversation.