They should be partners making each other and their patients safe through communication, education, and action plans.
Emergency medical services (EMS) personnel are often unclear about the role of infection preventionists (IPs) in pre-hospital transport and EMS. Yet, EMS personnel face challenges of undisclosed or unknown possible infectious bodily fluids as well as other dangers, and the EMS and IP partnership can benefit all parties, including the patients being transferred. Communication, like for all partnerships, is key to a successful collaboration.
To discuss this relationship, recently at the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) 2022 Annual Conference, held June 13-15, 2022, in Indianapolis, Indiana, Infection Control Today® (ICT®) spoke with Jill Holdsworth, MS, CIC, FAPIC, CRCST, NREMT; manager, infection prevention, Emory University Hospital Midtown in Peachtree Corners, Georgia; and Alexander Isakov, MD, MPH, FACEP, FAEMS, professor of Emergency Medicine; director, Section of Prehospital and Disaster Medicine; Department of Emergency Medicine; Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, Georgia. Holdsworth and Isakov discussed their presentation titled, “IP's Role in EMS & Pre-Hospital Transport.”
“I think in a perfect world, the infection prevention officer is helping to keep the EMS personnel safe from infectious bodily fluids from communicable diseases,” Isakov told ICT®. “EMS agencies most often do have an infection control officer, and they're trying to build a hierarchy of controls to keep their personnel safe. They're providing education and training for field personnel. They're developing work practices, administrative policies; they're making recommendations about personal protective equipment. And in this way, they're creating a hierarchy of controls to keep EMS personnel safe.”
Isakov continues, discussing the importance of communication. "Having infection preventionist as partners in those hospitals, especially as it relates to even information flow, after a patient's transport, who may be had an unrecognized communicable disease to have that relationship to communicate back to the EMS agency about that potential exposure and what to do next” Isakov said.
However, the IPs and EMS personnel must get over the first hurdle. Holdsworth explains, “But you do have to form those relationships first…do you even know who has an IP? Do you even know who to reach out to? That's step one as an IP because they probably don't know who to reach out to in the hospitals either. And it takes a little bit of effort to start those relationships.”