Tools and Techniques to Enhance Your Infection Preventionist’s Success

Date: October 18, 2021 | By: Heather Hutson, RN, IP-BC, Chief Infection Control Officer, AMS Infection Prevention Partners

With staffing shortages affecting long-term care facilities across the country, it’s easy for facilities to let their infection prevention and control program (IPCP) efforts fall to the wayside. I am here to urge you not to! If there’s one thing the COVID-19 pandemic exposed for all of us in long-term care, it’s how absolutely critical infection prevention and control efforts are to your facilities’ success and your residents’ (and staffs’) health and safety.

It’s also worth noting that it’s required by law. F880 - the most-cited infraction in long-term care - requires that “a facility must have a program for preventing, identifying, reporting, investigating and controlling all infections and communicable diseases…”

This includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • An infection surveillance program

  • Infection incidence reporting program

  • Infection prevention program

  • QAPI committee/required IP program

  • Isolation program

  • Antibiotic stewardship program

  • Designated, certified Infection Preventionist (IP)

  • Linen handling program

  • Immunizations

  • Annual facility IPCP assessment

  • Resident care activities program

  • Environmental cleaning/disinfection program

  • Staff IP training & education

Is something holding back your IP?

We know that your IP wants to do the right thing. We hear it all the time. However, many times they lack the IPCP knowledge and expertise to do so, and they don’t have the appropriate resources at their disposal. When I’m making the rounds to LTC facilities across the country, the No. 1 thing I hear from IPs is that they have too many clinical responsibilities - many of which are completely outside the scope of infection prevention - to properly implement and maintain effective IP programs.

Another thing I hear often: They don’t have the support from their leadership team, nor do they have the resources (even, at times, when they request it). What’s more - they often don’t feel supported by their medical directors, who should both fully understand and be actively engaged in antibiotic stewardship programs, antibiograms, and other IPCP regulations.

Here’s what else I hear: They feel alone and often frustrated, finding themselves doing repetitive tasks rather than meaningful work toward the IPCP efforts. They’re not involved in their QAPI program like they’d like or the home doesn’t take QAPI seriously. Some are new to the role and don’t have a playbook or even know where to start. Some feel that whenever they start an IP project, leadership pulls them back on the floor. I’ve even heard that some facilities think IP is solely about COVID-19! (It’s not!)

How to implement (or course-correct) your IPCP

There’s still time to turn the ship around and here’s how.

A successful IPCP starts with a plan. It’s important that it’s a plan that all parties - particularly leadership - can manage and support. But it needs continuous commitment. Infection prevention and control is NOT just a box to check or a way to avoid a fine. It requires daily and ongoing surveillance with a proactive view from a dedicated and empowered IP.

IP is more than a name. It’s not just a title. It is a critical role in LTC facilities. An IPCP touches all areas and departments inside - and outside - of your facility. Your IPs need resources, education, ongoing support, and appropriate recognition. IPs ensure the safety and wellbeing of your residents, staff, and all who enter a nursing facility, therefore, they need a support system and need to be recognized for their ongoing efforts.

Regulations, best practices change often. IPs who stay current, adapt to change, and revise policies/procedures when needed will have opportunities to provide up-to-date education to staff and residents.

Ready to implement a plan?

Your first step is to start with a facility assessment - identify areas that need improvement and prioritize your efforts. Next:

  • Create a QAPI PIP- detailed action plan to reach your goal(s);

  • All members of QA committee should review, modify, and support;

  • Schedule meetings to review progress; update as needed (this is carried out by IP but managed by leadership); and

  • Improve communication with medical providers; ensure they know how to ask for what they need in relation to testing, antibiotics, etc. Educate on what pathogens and MDROs are, how they affect the residents, or what to do about them (i.e.-precautions, staff education, cohorts).

 

Admission processes play a huge role in infection prevention. Involve the IP in this area! An IP overview should be incorporated into the admission/readmission process. This should include ensuring all diagnostic and/or laboratory results are reviewed and available, i.e. was the resident in isolation at the hospital and why, does the resident have any MDROs?

 

Implementing an effective IPCP and empowering your IPs certainly won’t happen overnight. The good news is you can take these simple, specific steps toward turning your IPCP around. If you’re still unsure where to begin, give us a call. We’re passionate about IP mentorship and helping facilities implement - and maintain - IPCP.

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For more information, contact:

Heather Hutson, RN, IP-BC

Chief Infection Control Officer

AMS Infection Prevention Partners

hhutson@amsonsite.com