How to Throw an Infection Control Party
By Susan J. Taylor, MS, MT (ASCP), CIC
Through an audio conference, Didier Pittet, MD, of the University of Geneva Hospital in Switzerland, shared his hospitals experience of a three-year, hospital-wide promotion of a hand hygiene campaign. His campaign of talking walls and Dirty Staph (MRSA) cartoons resulted in a sustained and significant improvement in compliance with the rules of hand hygiene. After participating in this audio conference with Dr. Pittet, our infection control department questioned what kind of campaign could St. Dominic/Jackson Memorial Hospital use to promote hand hygiene in a fun and positive way?
For the past three years, we had held an infection control haunted house in October to emphasize hand hygiene and standard precautions. The haunted house was getting to be old hat to everyone and was poorly attended. A fresh new approach was needed to emphasize the importance of infection control and hand hygiene.
The education department and the infection control department of St. Dominic/ Jackson Memorial Hospital met to brainstorm for a haunted house replacement. October was the month used by many for an infection control educational event. Football is always big news among most Mississippians in the fall, so it was decided that an infection control tailgate party might just be the thing to get more than 2,000 employees involved.
In this same time period, a hand-hygiene performance team was formed to increase emphasis on the importance of good hand hygiene in preventing hospital-acquired infections. The hand hygiene team organized several activities to promote hand hygiene but they chose the infection control tailgate party as their main event.
Early planning discussions for the tailgate party included some really elaborate and creative plans of bringing in pick-up trucks to the top floor of our parking deck. The trucks were to be used for departmental infection control exhibits. Roasted hot dogs and other tailgate food were also suggested. However, reality reminded us that in Mississippi, October days are often over 90 degrees, and hospital employees have great difficulty breaking very far away from work. With those facts in mind, the trucks and hot dogs ideas were discarded. The hospitals Medical Mall, with ample space, air-conditioning, and a pathway that all employees travel to get to the parking deck, was reserved as the ideal location for the tailgate party.
How do you entice busy hospital departments to take time to make an infection control exhibit? We decided that there would be more education and involvement if each department were assigned a specified infection control topic. Infection control made an effort to include past experiences and common encounters to create a topic to match each department. The emergency department was given Neisseria meningitides. Nutrition Area was given foodborne illnesses like Salmonella and Shigella. The information services department was given the topic What is lurking on your keyboard? All of the exhibits had a football theme in some manner, and were tasked with considering how infection control measures used to reduce specific organisms could be likened to how a football team tries to win a game. The exhibit voted as overall best by employees would receive hospital-wide recognition, along with a Coke and cookie party.
Six weeks before the tailgate party, a memo was sent to all department heads explaining the event and listing each departments assigned infection control topic. Education provided boards and supplies for posters, while infection control provided sources of reference materials and answers to questions on what was expected.
Since football was the theme, a tape of football fight songs from different universities was compiled for background music. Party supply stores provided many economical football decorations and fun prizes. The hospitals soap vendor provided $200 worth of infection control products, and other prizes were bought by the infection control and education departments. Door prizes included all sorts of hand-hygiene promotion items such as mouse pads, T-shirts, coffee cups, calendars, and pens.
Earlier in the year, the Captain Clean character was created as St. Dominics mascot through an employee contest arranged by the hand hygiene team. It was decided that Captain Clean would make an appearance at the tailgate party. He resembles a can of alcohol foam handrub, but has a Supermantype cape and shield. Original germ characters were needed for a Captain Clean cartoon series, so art students at a local middle school were invited to draw pictures of Captain Clean and the germs he needed to fight. The drawings from the students were used for an additional display along with Captain Clean.
There were not many inquiries about the tailgate party exhibit until another reminder memo was sent out about three weeks before the event. Many departments said they were too short-staffed to participate, and there was also a nurse manager retreat scheduled the same day. It was questionable whether we would have many exhibits submitted. In order to determine the number of departments that would be involved, another e-mail was sent to departments, asking them to call the education department to reserve a table for their exhibit.
The week of the party was hectic, with everyone attempting to get last-minute details ready. With little time to spare, infection control prepared an exhibit titled, Join the Infection Control Team. Using a sons peewee football uniform for a team member exhibit and using a daughters Cabbage Patch doll for the head, we created an infection control football player. When we arrived to add our exhibit event, there were 21 infection control exhibits total. Each of the exhibits demonstrated amazing creativity; including exhibits with a miniature football field fighting TB, and Scotty aureus vs. the OR.
Usually St. Dominic employees are offered their flu shots early in October, but since the allotment of the influenza vaccine arrived later than usual, employee health was invited to join the tailgate party and administer flu shots. They also gave out Tylenol and candy for all who stepped up to receive their flu shot.
The party was well attended; participants included hospital employees, vice presidents, and even our CEO. They all appeared to enjoy the football trivia game, the nerf football toss, registering for door prizes, the free Coca-Cola and popcorn. But the best entertainment of all was a performance by the infection control cheerleaders who demonstrated their own original cheers every hour. They performed several creative cheers, one of which was, Two Bits, Four Bits, Six Bits, a Dollar, All for Clean Hands, Stand Up and Holler!
The tailgate party was a successful event because of the many people who participated. Thanks go to the 21 hospital departments who took the time to create an exhibit, to the cheerleaders, and to the hand hygiene team. The party would not have taken place without the hard work and coordination between the education and infection control departments.
What were the results for all this hard work? There were 21 great infection control educational posters for use in the future education events; 35 people received an infection control-related door prize; and 545 hospital employees received their influenza vaccination that day. Our CEO called and commended us on how well the event was planned. Did hospital infections all go away? Well, unfortunately, they did not all go away, so we still have work to do, hand-hygiene reminders to create, and other parties to plan for the future. Little by little, we will reach for our goal of zero hospital-acquired infections.
Susan Taylor, MS, MT (ASCP), CIC, is infection control practitioner for St. Dominic/Jackson Memorial Hospital.