Infection Preventionists (IP) hold a vital, but sometimes invisible role in healthcare. The role can be underappreciated because if an infection is prevented…no one really knows! If an outbreak is avoided…no one knows. It can be a complex role, with interplay between all aspects of healthcare.
We strive to keep everyone healthy: our intention is infection prevention. Within a healthcare setting, an IP will do their best to ensure that a patient receiving care does not get exposed to, or infected with, an organism from the healthcare setting. An IP is the bug buster, the clean freak, the educator, and sometimes the tap dancer…having to be light on their feet when discussing microorganism transfer with some very well educated healthcare providers. An IP can recite the Moments for Hand Hygiene (the WHO has 5 moments, Canada has 4 moments) in their sleep. An IP incorporates these moments into their education (‘…you would finish the procedure, remove your gloves and as per Moment 3, perform hand hygiene’). An IP cannot walk in any setting without their eyes looking at the condition of floors and ceilings (we hate stained ceiling tiles anywhere!), looking for dust on objects that should not be dusty, looking for hand hygiene dispensers that appear broken or empty, or a missed hand hygiene opportunity. An IP would benefit from a graduate level degree in diplomacy, which most IP’s get on the job. An IP needs to be able to share their message with all staff in a healthcare setting, from MD’s, to volunteers. The IP works with people who may not have English as their first (or second) language, so communicating a message can be a challenge sometimes.
An IP has an expanding role outside of traditional hospitals or ambulatory care centers. An IP is now mandated for long-term care settings. First Responder settings have designated officers who act as the IP. IP’s are called on to help in dental, physician and other medical offices. IP’s will be at schools to talk to teachers, custodial staff and the students. An IP can offer insight at daycare settings and with staff who clean larger public buildings like malls, offices and apartment buildings. Industry has been hiring IP’s to help their sales staff with messaging and education of end-users of the industry product.
Every IP wants to be seen as a collaborator, not the hand hygiene police or the dust police near construction areas. An IP wants all staff to mimic the IP intention of infection prevention. Anyone can stop the spread of a microorganism through good hand hygiene, good cleaning and disinfection and good use of masks. An IP is your resource to a safe and healthy environment. Your IP has been working long hours, and handling questions from not only staff where they work, but the general public.
Thank you so much for all you do, my fellow IP’s!