Keeping Infections Under Control: It’s a Team Thing!


As we acknowledge Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) week and its theme: “It’s a Team Thing,” it seems an appropriate occasion to reflect on the vision of Eastern Health: Healthy People. Healthy Communities.

This statement is rooted in the belief that communities of people have the collective wisdom and ability to develop programs to promote healthy living. There is an old saying “it takes a village…” and this rings true in the world of infection prevention and control – as it certainly takes a village of committed team players to ensure the principles of infection control are met to provide safe outcomes for our clients, visitors and staff.

Eastern Health’s Infection Prevention and Control team. (l-r): Mark Graham, Krista Walsh, Jeanine Bursey, Debbie Dawe, Kelly Smith, Erin Tizzard, Ashley Ryan, Lynn Mercer, Donna Ronayne, Mary Ann Head, Donna Penney, Jalene Molloy, Ann Marie Norman, Paul Bouzane, Amy Howard, (centre) Michelle Mugford (missing from photo) Natalie Smith, Jennifer Phillips, Jennifer Chard, Elaine Noseworthy and Dr. Natalie Bridger

Infection control is an exciting and multi-faceted specialty involved in all levels of health care – an ever-changing field with extensive involvement and collaboration in all departments. This year’s IPAC theme of teamwork is in keeping with Eastern Health’s focus on the collective wisdoms and partnerships needed to achieve our common goals.

As an infection control practitioner (ICP) with Eastern Health, I and my colleagues serve a variety of roles throughout the region in both acute and long-term care. These can include surveillance of infection control practices and outbreak investigation; employee, patient and visitor education; policy and program development; advising on infection control factors during construction and renovation of our facilities; quality improvement and up-to-date knowledge on standards and emerging illnesses.

Our focus is to ensure best practices and evidence-based strategies are used to ensure our clients, visitors and staff are given the best possible care in all programs, disciplines and specialties. Without a team approach, it would be impossible to ensure and maintain proper infection control in our health-care settings.

For example, our colleagues in the Environmental Services department at Eastern Health work closely with us on a daily, often hourly basis to ensure our facilities are cleaned properly. Lisa Hobbs works on the bed carbolizing team at the Health Sciences Centre – employees who wash the beds with hospital grade cleaners to ensure that they are clean and disinfected.  Lisa is right there – from patient admission to patient discharge – and all transfers in between!

Lisa Hobbs, a member of the ‘bed carbolizing team’ at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s

“Practicing proper hand hygiene, donning and doffing of personal protective equipment and following cleaning procedures are part of my daily routine,” Lisa says. “The rooms have to be cleaned in a proper way to reduce the risk of further illness for the patient, and then for the next patient, and so on. IPAC is a great resource for education and support to our department to make sure we’re doing all we can to keep our patients safe from the spread of infection.”

Construction, renovation, maintenance and repair is an ongoing activity at Eastern Health, as in any large and complex health-care organization. By working closely with infection control staff, our Infrastructure colleagues can prevent potential health risks associated with construction site activities.

Tom Power, occupational health and safety officer, Colin Marsh, regional manager infrastructure and leasing

Infection control measures are considered at the initial stages of a project plan according to Colin Marsh, Eastern Health’s regional manager with Infrastructure and Leasing, Avalon Acute Care. “There is a risk assessment completed with ongoing consultation with infection control personnel from the planning stages of a project until completion,” Colin adds. “Taking preventative measures in safety and infection control is our number one goal and we work in unison to achieve this.”

Tom Power, the occupation health and safety officer seconds that. “We work as a team, all bringing unique expertise to the table to ensure we follow best practice and policy.”

While proper infection control is important everywhere at Eastern Health, some of our patients are more vulnerable to infections than others.

Dr. David Jones is a hematologist with Eastern Health’s stem cell transplant program. He and his collogues are committed to a culture of safety for those entrusted in their care. “Stem cell transplant patients are one of the most immune-compromised patients we see,” he says.

“They are at risk for any type of infection under the sun, and infection control is a vital means of reducing the impact that these infections have on our patients. They have a lot of interaction in the health-care system at many levels – from the emergency room to the intensive care unit – making a team effort for infection control equally important.”

Stem Cell Transplant Team (l–r): Dr. Joanne Hickey, Dr. Debra Bergstrom, Yvonne Gulliver, Dr. Kristy Tompkins, Cheryl Hynes, Charlene Downey and Dr. Dave Jones

Frontline staff also play an instrumental role.

Yvette Wade, a registered nurse who works on 4 West at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital, sums it up this way: “Infection Control supports nurses to provide optimum care for our patients through educating our patients, their family and friends and fellow health-care workers,” she says.

“Through proper handling techniques and best practice, we can prevent the transmission of infectious organisms, which, in turn, can prevent further illness that can be life-threatening.”

(l-r): Stephanie Purdy, Alison Murphy, Valerie Ryan, Jeremy Newman, Stephanie Croke, Valerie Careen, Melanie Manning, Brenda Hackett and Yvette Wade of the Nurses Staff on 4 West, St. Clare’s Hospital

Infection prevention and control is an exciting field – as one day is so different from the next! And yet, as an infection control practitioner, I’m only one piece of the puzzle; it is the team that achieves the task at hand, and I’m thankful to work with such knowledgeable, dedicated, engaged people every day.

So as we celebrate IPAC week, we also celebrate our combined knowledge, skills and supportive relationships as team players, and we remain committed to a culture of safety for our employees, our patients, residents, clients and visitors – all the ‘communities’ that we serve at Eastern Health!

(l-r): Mary Ann Head, Tim McAllister, Courtney Chafe, Melanie Scott, Jeannine Herritt, Rhonda Webber and Jenny Slade of the 4 North A staff, HSC Hospital

This article was written by Mary Ann Head, an infection control practitioner with Eastern health, based in St. John’s.

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