Elevating Surgical Safety: The Role of a Surgical Infection Preventionist


Amidst the complex dance of scalpels and sterile fields in surgical theaters, a silent guardian stands vigilant—the surgical infection preventionist. Poster author, Charles Vickery, Jr, BSN, RN, CIC, CRST, of AdventHealth Central Florida, unveils the indispensable role of this health care sentinel at AORN's International Surgical Conference & Expo 2024.

Some of the posters at AORN24

Some of the posters at AORN24

Infection preventionists (IPs) should be in every department of the facility, from the kitchen to the patient room. Operating rooms (ORs] should be no different. However, not every OR has an IP, and a poster, “Benefits of Investing in a Surgical Infection Preventionist,” aims to change that.

The poster is by Charles Vickery, Jr, BSN, RN, CIC, CRST, an infection preventionist at AdventHealth Central Florida, AdventHealth Celebration, presented at the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses’s (AORN’s) International Surgical Conference & Expo 2024) held from March 9 to 12, 2024, in Nashville, Tennessee.

“An infection preventionist (IP) is an individual [who] promotes the prevention of health care-associated infections. A surgical IP is a professional responsible for implementing and overseeing infection control measures in surgical settings,” the author wrote.

In the surgical department, the IP plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety of both the staff and patients. They achieve this by observing the OR and procedural practices to guarantee the implementation of best practices and evidence-based recommendations. The IP also collaborates with other departments and conducts postsurgical surveillance. They audit instrument tracers and provide education and support to physicians and staff. Additionally, they assist with regulatory and accreditation requirements and develop practice approaches to prevent surgical site infections (SSIs).

"As a surgical infection preventionist, I strive to eliminate the gap between infection prevention and the OR team," Vickery told Infection Control Today. "I have partnered with the surgical services team to create a safer environment for both our staff and patients in our procedural areas. The goal of our infection prevention team is to have a boots-on-the-ground approach rather than merely reacting to issues when they have already happened. We have done this by having me be part of the OR team and working directly with the team every day. I am grateful to be part of the AdventHealth Celebration team, where leadership invests in reducing HAIs across all spaces, underscoring our commitment to extending the healing ministry of Christ."

IP's main goals are to facilitate a decrease in SSIs by rounding with environmental services (EVS), OR leadership, the sterile processing department, and OR contractors. They also conduct environmental rounding in procedural areas, procedural preoptimization, surgical equipment, and tool tracer audits, and work with physicians to achieve tight glucose control.

To implement a surgical IP in your facility, Vickery wrote, “It is crucial to secure stakeholder and leadership buy-in when championing the implementation of the surgical IP within your professional health care organization.”

Vickery shows examples of decreases in SSIs through 3 graphs of hip prosthesis SSIs (decreased from 3 to 0 during 2021-2023), craniotomy SSIs (decreased from 5 to 0 from 2021 to 2022 and stayed at 0 for 2023), and spinal fusion SSIs (decreased from 3 to 0 from 2021 to 2022 then went up to 1 in 2023).

When ICT asked Vickery was he was most excited about AORN 2024, he replied, " I look forward to attending the AORN conference every year. It offers invaluable insight into the global efforts to enhance patient and staff safety. This allows me to bring back new practices to our team while showcasing what our team has done to get closer to zero surgical site infections. The collaborative atmosphere and educational sessions offer firsthand glimpses into what is working all over the world."

The conference runs from Saturday, March 9, to Tuesday, March 12, 2024. For all ICT’s coverage, go here.

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