"I had no idea what I was getting into," says Tammy Beahm, RN, BSN, CIC, historically an ICU nurse and today one half of the two-person infection control (IC) team at one of Arizona’s largest healthcare campuses — Banner Thunderbird Medical Center, located in Glendale, Ariz. Apparently, Beahm found her niche. She belongs in infection control. She has a keen eye for anything out of place, amiss, or otherwise bothersome. She’s bold, yet compassionate. She is a leader, a teacher, a listener and most notably, an all-around team player.
The Arizona native begins every morning pouring over stacks of lab reports. She and Korte receive every positive patient culture, assess the seriousness of each and then work with physicians, nurses and others on the proper plan of action for each individualized case. Beahm reports any communicable diseases they run across to the local health department. She then makes sure to follow up with the nursing teams to ensure they are using whatever precautions are needed for each case—and then she often checks up again.
Beahm sifts through countless emails, returns pages and answers yelled out questions in the hospital’s corridors. She and her "mentor," Kris Korte, RN, CIC, also take on the responsibility for campus-wide education and communication regarding any number of IC-related topics. From MRSA poster boards and ongoing safety assurance, all the way to going out floor-by-floor to ensure practices such as hand hygiene are appropriately carried out. The tasks run the gamut.
Her days are littered with new projects that come packaged with various tasks and duties—the latest of which includes a whole new sharps disposal program the facility has acquired. Once the education process covering the new system is fulfilled, she then checks periodically to ensure the processes have stuck (no pun intended), and best practices are being applied.
She walks around each of the floors and checks on the isolated patients or those under any number of precautions. She attends meetings—from departmental to hospital-wide to health system-wide. She holds hand hygiene audits and patient safety fairs. She makes and distributes memos, signs and bulletin boards, and keeps track of rates, stats and any number of other applicable data sets.
Beahm even accompanies a multidisciplinary group of colleagues in weekly environmental rounds. They tackle one unit each week—clinical and non-clinical. She tags along on the pre-West Nile tours, identifying any areas that could have standing water or drains that may attract mosquitoes.
In between more pages, she checks medicine rooms for cleanliness, supply rooms for expired items, and supply carts for the required materials. She watches for missing tiles in the ceiling and checks to make sure air blows in her face when she opens certain doors.
At some point in time, there may be an outbreak where all of the above must temporarily be put on hold.
Beahm’s average day can put even the highest of today’s multitasking expectations to shame. She may not have known what she was getting into, but at the end of the day, her efforts ensure we all stay safe and free from infection—and that is perhaps the best reason of all.