A new look at the underlying causes of infection prevention

A new look at the underlying causes of infection prevention - Image Credit: Squaredpixels

Tuesday August 18 2015

Marilyn Hanchett, who had more than four years with the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), has started a new series of articles looking at the most urgent issues in infection prevention.

Published on Infection Control Today, the article highlights how there has been a longstanding need for infection prevention programmes, and that they should be conducted as a multidisciplinary function.

In fact, many guidelines and regulatory standards dictate that infection prevention should be an organised programme that is fully coordinated by an individual who is qualified to make the necessary judgements through specific training.

Ms Hanchett writes that's it's important that this person is responsible for ensuring the programme "supports the provider’s mission, aligns with its safety culture, and is effectively and efficiently integrated into its operational and care delivery systems". 

However, for anyone engaged in sharps safety or infection control practices, it's important to take note of the factors that impact these. 

Ms Hanchett separates the three categories of external and internal factors that affect infection prevention, while also highlighting how they are all interconnected and related.

The first involves the need for a core curriculum and standard educational goals. Although infection control used to be performed exclusively by nurses, this has changed and now this responsibility lies with all healthcare workers.

Recent years, according to Ms Hanchett, have also seen a drop in the number of registered nurses, meaning others need to take on this role. However, the constantly changing roles of many healthcare professionals has meant it's unclear as to whether some staff have clinical experience or not.

"It is critically important to acknowledge that one of the defining criteria of a profession, and especially those labeled as a specialty, is to identify and educate their members according to a distinct and consensus based body of knowledge. This assures that all professionals of that type have a minimum consistent knowledge base not only for practice but also upon which to expand and develop expertise," she writes. Ms Hanchett wrote.

In the second group is the need to clarify the scope of the role and the implications of entry into practice, which involves looking at the standard pre-employment curriculum and ensuring that both consistency and clarity are present when getting staff with infection prevention responsibilities.

Looking at what is involved in the role is key and asking whether it is mostly data analysis or if there is clinical practice involved.

"Recruiting individuals into specialties or subspecialties from various backgrounds exists in other area of healthcare such as quality or performance improvement, accreditation and compliance, safety etc," Ms Hanchett wrote.

However, she also noted the importance of having some baseline knowledge, often including years of related experience, before an individual can move into one of these specialised fields. 

The third category relates to the need for a long-term, sustainable model for recruitment into the profession, with there being no college or university-based programmes to prepare individuals for such a role.

Ms Hanchett says the fundamental questions of what someone involved in infection prevention needs to know should be based on a new national – and perhaps international – consensus before effective long-term recruitment strategies can emerge.