WASHINGTON, D.C. -- An infection prevention and control professional who made it her mission to educate emergency medical services (EMS) staff on disease transmission and prevention has been named one of the Heroes of Infection Prevention by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). The Heroes program recognizes APIC members who contribute significantly to the reduction of infection and impact the health, safety, and well-being of patients, healthcare workers, and the public.
I rode in an ambulance; found a niche and became a guru, laughs Katherine West, RN, BSN, MSED, CIC of Manassas, Va., who, nearly 30 years ago became a pioneer when she formed a consulting company that caters almost exclusively to firefighters and the EMS community.
While completing a ride-along with a paramedic crew, West began asking them about routine immunizations, cleaning routines and infection prevention and control procedures.
The looked at me like I was nuts, she said. After researching, West found there were no standards relating to infection prevention and control in emergency medicine.
This provided West with the rare opportunity to pioneer a niche market and form Infection Control/Emerging Concepts, Inc., which works with EMS professionals on a nationwide basis. Im the fire rescue services personnel guru, she said.
In a typical day she also consults for medical, dental, corrections and fire rescue personnel. She writes agency-specific exposure control plans; develops educational materials that are work-place specific; writes and teaches courses that are run nationwide.
To date, this has been Wests busiest year, presenting before various audiences ranging from a few dozen to as many as 6,000 requesting anything from a two-hour to a two-day mini infection prevention and control course to comply with the Ryan White CARE Act.
A New York Fire Department had me present to them for two weeks, teaching them infection controlhow it affects them in their world and their practice, said West.
And while the bulk of her work is among firefighters and dental practices, making sure theyre in compliance for infection prevention and control, she also works for the U.S. Public Health Service on contract.
How does she summarize her success? Sometimes you take for granted that things are under your nose only to find out they arent, so you invent them!
APICs Heroes are selected based on a number of criteria, including: the sustainability of a program; the process or activity; and quantitative proof of success of the program.
Award recipients are featured in a 2006 calendar and received complimentary registration to APICs 33rd annual Educational Conference and International Meeting, which was held June 11-15, 2006 in Tampa, Fla.
The Heroes program is the result of an educational grant from Tyco Healthcare/Kendall.