How to Throw an Infection Control Party

April 1, 2005

How to Throw an Infection Control Party

By Susan J. Taylor, MS, MT (ASCP), CIC

Through an audio conference, Didier Pittet, MD, ofthe University of Geneva Hospital in Switzerland, shared his hospitalsexperience of a three-year, hospital-wide promotion of a hand hygiene campaign.His campaign of talking walls and Dirty Staph (MRSA) cartoonsresulted in a sustained and significant improvement in compliance with the rulesof 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 andpositive way?

For the past three years, we had held an infection control haunted house inOctober to emphasize hand hygiene and standard precautions. The haunted housewas getting to be old hat to everyone and was poorly attended. A fresh newapproach was needed to emphasize the importance of infection control and handhygiene.

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 wasdecided that an infection control tailgate party might just be the thing to getmore than 2,000 employees involved.

In this same time period, a hand-hygiene performance team was formed toincrease emphasis on the importance of good hand hygiene in preventinghospital-acquired infections. The hand hygiene team organized several activities to promote hand hygienebut they chose the infection control tailgate party as their main event.

Early planning discussions for the tailgate party included some reallyelaborate and creative plans of bringing in pick-up trucks to the top floor ofour parking deck. The trucks were to be used for departmental infection controlexhibits. 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. Thehospitals Medical Mall, with ample space, air-conditioning, and a pathwaythat all employees travel to get to the parking deck, was reserved as the ideallocation for the tailgate party.

How do you entice busy hospital departments to take time to make an infectioncontrol exhibit? We decided that there would be more education and involvementif each department were assigned a specified infection control topic. Infectioncontrol made an effort to include past experiences and common encounters tocreate a topic to match each department. The emergency department was given Neisseriameningitides. Nutrition Area was given foodborne illnesses like Salmonellaand Shigella. The information services department was given the topic What islurking on your keyboard? All of the exhibits had a football theme in somemanner, and were tasked with considering how infection control measures used toreduce specific organisms could be likened to how a football team tries to win agame. The exhibit voted as overall best by employees would receive hospital-widerecognition, along with a Coke and cookie party.

Six weeks before the tailgate party, a memo was sent to all department headsexplaining the event and listing each departments assigned infection controltopic. Education provided boards and supplies for posters, while infectioncontrol provided sources of reference materials and answers to questions on whatwas expected.

Since football was the theme, a tape of football fight songs from differentuniversities was compiled for background music. Party supply stores providedmany economical football decorations and fun prizes. The hospitals soapvendor provided $200 worth of infection control products, and other prizes werebought by the infection control and education departments. Door prizes includedall sorts of hand-hygiene promotion items such as mouse pads, T-shirts, coffeecups, calendars, and pens.

Earlier in the year, the Captain Clean character was created as St. Dominics mascot through an employee contestarranged by the hand hygiene team. It was decided that Captain Clean would makean 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 fora Captain Clean cartoon series, so art students at a local middle school wereinvited to draw pictures of Captain Clean and the germs he needed to fight. The drawings from the students were usedfor an additional display along with Captain Clean.

There were not many inquiries about the tailgate party exhibit until anotherreminder memo was sent out about three weeks before the event. Many departmentssaid they were too short-staffed to participate, and there was also a nursemanager retreat scheduled the same day. It was questionable whether we wouldhave many exhibits submitted. In order to determine the number of departmentsthat would be involved, another e-mail was sent to departments, asking them tocall the education department to reserve a table for their exhibit.

The week of the party was hectic, with everyone attempting to get last-minutedetails ready. With little time to spare, infection control prepared an exhibittitled, Join the Infection Control Team. Using a sons peewee footballuniform for a team member exhibit and using a daughters Cabbage Patch dollfor the head, we created an infection control football player. When wearrived to add our exhibit event, there were 21 infection control exhibitstotal. Each of the exhibits demonstrated amazing creativity; including exhibitswith 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 flushot.

The party was well attended; participants included hospital employees, vicepresidents, and even our CEO. They all appeared to enjoy the football triviagame, the nerf football toss, registering for door prizes, the free Coca-Colaand popcorn. But the best entertainment of all was a performance by theinfection control cheerleaders who demonstrated their own original cheers everyhour. 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 whoparticipated. Thanks go to the 21 hospital departments who took the time tocreate an exhibit, to the cheerleaders, and to the hand hygiene team. The partywould not have taken place without the hard work and coordination between theeducation and infection control departments.

What were the results for all this hard work? There were 21 great infectioncontrol educational posters for use in the future education events; 35 peoplereceived an infection control-related door prize; and 545 hospital employeesreceived 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 goaway, so we still have work to do, hand-hygiene reminders to create, and otherparties to plan for the future. Little by little, we will reach for our goal ofzero hospital-acquired infections.

Susan Taylor, MS, MT (ASCP), CIC, is infection control practitioner for St.Dominic/Jackson Memorial Hospital.