Leadership Can Be the Differentiator in HAI Prevention

In a new study published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, researchers in Michigan led by Sanjay Saint, MD, MPH, found that leadership plays a critical role in hospital infection prevention and control programs. Through a three-phase study of invited hospitals whose lead infection preventionist had completed a quantitative survey on HAI prevention, Saint, et al. (2010) sought to better to understand which behaviors are exhibited by leaders who are successful at implementing HAI prevention practices in U.S. hospitals. A survey in phase one, data collection in phase two, and site interviews in phase three contributed to the findings.

Saint, et al. (2010) note, We found that successful leaders cultivated a culture of clinical excellence and effectively communicated it to staff; focused on overcoming barriers and dealt directly with resistant staff or process issues that impeded prevention of HAI; inspired their employees; and thought strategically while acting locally, which involved politicking before crucial committee votes, leveraging personal prestige to move initiatives forward, and forming partnerships across disciplines. Hospital epidemiologists and infection preventionists often played more important leadership roles in their hospitals patient safety activities than did senior executives.

The researchers cite the differences between transactional leaders -- guide their followers by ensuring that roles and tasks are clearly specified and by using reward and punishment as motivation and transformational leaders those who inspire their followers to see beyond their perceived self interest. The researchers point out, Although the distinction between transactional and transformational leadership styles is important, the lines between the two are blurred. Indeed, some believe that the styles are complementary and that perhaps transformational leadership builds on transactional leadership.

Saint, et al. (2010) conclude that leadership plays a key role in infection prevention and that the challenging process of translating the findings of infection prevention research into practice can be eased by leaders who heed the advice and experiences of their colleagues.

Reference: Saint SS, Kowalski CP, Banaszak Holl J, Forman J, Damschroder L and Krein SL. The Importance of Leadership in Preventing HealthcareAssociated Infection: Results of a Multisite Qualitative Study. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2010;31:901-907.