Elevating Infection Prevention: Critical Next Steps


ICT spoke with Russell N. Olmsted, MPH, CIC, the 2011 president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), about current issues and critical next steps to advance the infection prevention agenda.

By Kelly M. Pyrek

ICT spoke with Russell N. Olmsted, MPH, CIC, the 2011 president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), about current issues and critical next steps to advance the infection prevention agenda.

Q: What are the issues that are still keeping infection preventionists (IPs) awake at night? What can the collective community do to help address these issues?

A: Hopefully IPs are reading this on their way to or while attending APICs 38th Annual Educational Conference under the leadership of its chair, Vickie Brown, and her committee. Even if not able to attend keep an eye on the APIC website or your APIC e-News for resources that will allow you to share in the knowledge that will be shared at this exciting annual event in Baltimore. As to what issues keep IPs up at night, this has not changed for as long as Ive been in the field of infection prevention and control/healthcare epidemiology keeping the patients we serve at our affiliated facilities safe, free of infection, and to get the highest quality of care.

There are several factors that have heightened the concerns among IPs as to how we get these goals of safety and quality accomplished in face of increasing demands on IPs for data on healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), meeting regulatory and accreditation requirements and maintaining the support of the direct patient care team as they deliver care. The collective community of IPs can help address these concerns through networking at the local APIC chapter level. For example, a colleague may have found a way to more efficiently accomplish surveillance through technology that has freed them up more time to support the direct-care personnel. Networking has always been a strength of IPs and it has become even more critical in todays healthcare environment. The community of IPs can also benefit from advocacy activities led by the powerful partnership of members in APIC and their headquarters staff in Washington, D.C. Advocacy and public policy are mechanisms to raise awareness of the significant value IPs bring to their affiliates and these resonate with agencies such as CMS, other payers, organizational leadership and ultimately the consumers. Awareness and grassroots support can transform care by ensuring there is vibrant support for IPC programs in every setting where care is provided.

Q: How is infection preventionists role evolving as the infection prevention field is endeavoring to meet so many state/federal requirements and striving to continue to lead in policy and purpose?

A: The notable success toward elimination of HAIs e.g. central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI) and ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) using performance improvement collaboratives or networks has been an accelerant for change. This has led to more cohesive prevention strategies at the patients bedside that are built on a foundation of scientific evidence. The "secret sauce" for these has been coincident emphasis on developing effective teams wherein the IP is a key member but is dependent on the engagement of direct care personnel. In fact many of these teams are led by direct care providers with the IP as the subject matter expert. Others have been led directly by the IP. This change is leading towards the need for IPs to brush up or learn leadership and team building skills. IPs are very strong on technical skills but these latter, adaptive skills are going to need to be strengthened going forward. APIC 2011 offers a wide range of knowledge much of this will include content aimed at these emerging needs. I think the theme for the conference says it all Translating ScienceSustainable Solutions.

Q: Now that infection prevention seems to be on the national and public/private radar, what are the next steps to continue to elevate and advance the infection prevention agenda?

A: Leadership AND followership are both essential elements needed to elevate the field and support the critical work IPs do each and every day. An important model that is rapidly emerging is that of an Accountable Care Network. This network involves provision of care that responds and supports the patient across the continuum from acute care home and everywhere in between. It is also built on a universal electronic health record that all providers can access at any point of care along this continuum.

Public policy and advocacy are additional initiatives that are going to need to grow even further. Lastly, Implementation Science or Translational Research are the platforms for IPs to embrace now and as we move forward in partnership with patients to maintain focus on patient safety and high reliable organizations. A jump-start of this transformation will occur at APIC 2011 in Baltimore. Please join me, the APIC board, our headquarters staff, and the Annual Conference Committee to translate science youll learn into sustainable patient safety solutions.

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