The Best Way to Start an IP Role Is With The Joint Commission: One IP's Experience

The first day as an infection preventionist can be nerve wracking, but what happens when The Joint Commission is there the same day?

It is 7:24 AM, and I parked my car in the first available parking spot, so I could do my prep talk as soon as I could. I took a deep breath in, closed my eyes, and told myself, “Eddie, you’re gonna do awesome today.” I stepped out of the car and carried that confidence in my arms as if to keep it in pristine condition until I could show it off for a great first impression. However, the porcelain of self-assurance I protected began to rattle as the excitement kicked into second gear. The thought of starting my journey as an infection control nurse increased not only my heartbeat, but the cadence of my footsteps as I zipped past staff and visitors who were kind enough to greet me a good morning. I checked in with the receptionist at the front since I did not have a badge yet and it is now 7:28 AM. “Here goes nothing,” I tell myself. I dialed my manager’s number to let her know that I was making my way towards the office from the front lobby.

“Good morning, Priya!” I somewhat croaked from nervousness as I looked at my new manager of infection control. “I just checked in the front, and I’ll be right up. You’re on the second—.”

“Ok, great!” Priya said, “I need you to get here right now. The Joint Commission (TJC) is here today, and we need to hit the ground running because they are going to start any minute.”

The courage that I had cradled all the way from the car slipped out of my hands and shattered all over the floor. Anxiety took over and immediately went into overdrive, and a million thoughts and emotions collided in my mind trying to make sense of this flabbergasting situation. I was visualizing myself being questioned by TJC at a large conference table surrounded by unfamiliar eyes and the fate of my future in this role and organization solely depending on how I answered their questions.

I thought to myself, “I’ll just tell them it’s my first day on the job and I’m still learning. Yeah, I’ll tell them that, and I should be fine, right? What if my team thinks I can’t think on my feet? Or that I don’t even know the basics of infection prevention and control? Is it too late to call in sick? This is going to—.”

“BING!” The elevator opened. I snapped back into reality and proceeded to be lifted onto the next level of my seemingly disconcerting career.

Nearing the office doorway, I heard the hustling and bustling of people and the sound of papers being passed, filed, and stapled. As hectic as it may have sounded from the outside, my “new” colleagues were moving within the office space with such finesse and purpose in preparation for TJC that I felt the collaborative vibe immediately. I had met all of them during my initial interview, so this encounter was short, but sweet, and I was immediately put to work sorting content in each binder to be handed out to the surveyors.

Priya entered the room, “All right, everyone, the surveyors will be starting their day in the emergency department. Let’s all go down there, do spot checks, and support the nurses as a team.” To my surprise, that moment was when the magic of infection prevention and control happened.

I watched my teammates quickly comb through the department, running their fingers on the top of picture frames, checking isolation cart drawers, interacting with staff, and more. The IP teammate whom I was with saw a staff member not gelling out of one of the rooms [using hand sanitizer while exiting] and approached the individual to simply say, “Clean 20.” Instantly, the staff realized their mistake, smiled, and replied, “Of course! Clean 20!” and proceeded to do hand hygiene. Most individuals would expect the outcome of that interaction to result in the staff denying or justifying that they did not need to conduct hand hygiene because they did not touch anything in the room, but instead, it was quite the opposite.

To explain what is meant by “Clean 20”, it is a simple motto used to friendly remind staff to be aware of the opportunity for improvement in conducting hand hygiene for 20 seconds. But I learned that “Clean 20” is more than simply a reminder. This motto is known by all staff in empowering one another and not being afraid to speak up to any staff whether it be to a doctor, manager, custodian, or therapist. After that encounter, I knew that this infection prevention team were definitely the “cool kids on the block.” The staff were visibly engaged and appreciative of the IP team’s presence, and the mutual respect between the IP team and staff is extremely valuable for an organization to succeed in IP efforts. For the rest of the day, I was astounded by the infection control team that I am now a part of.

It is 4:02 PM, and I have clocked out from my first day as an IP. On the way to my car, I reflected on how much I had learned in only one day. All the apprehension I had felt towards TJC disappeared from knowing how much support infection control has and gives in this facility. The sun created a glare on my car’s screen, but I was still able to check the time. My car’s clock read 4:06 PM. I shifted into reverse, then to drive, and drove home happily while singing along to my favorite tunes.