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Archive Infection Control 2020

Infection Prevention's Big Moment

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, a back-to-basics mantra emerges.

Jared Bilski


GOING VIRAL The coronavirus outbreak has spotlighted the importance of widespread adoption of infection prevention's fundamental practices.

From the HIV crisis of the 1980s to the H1N1 pandemic of 2009 to the Ebola outbreak in 2014, Maureen Spencer, MEd, RN, CIC, FAPIC, has seen a lot during her more than 40 years as a board-certified infection preventionist. But she's never seen anything like what we're experiencing with COVID-19. "I semi-retired back in December, and I've been absolutely swamped with questions, concerns and requests for help," says Ms. Spencer, an independent consultant based in Boston.

She's not alone. Guidance from infection prevention experts is in high demand right now as healthcare professionals adapt to a new normal in surgical care. There's a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on the focus infection prevention practices are receiving and use that attention to drive home a critical back-to-basics message that could spark real change in how your staff protect themselves and their patients from infection.

"The SARS outbreak taught us how to [make change happen] correctly," says Ann Marie Pettis, RN, BSN, CIC, FAPIC, president-elect of the Association for the Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). "Because of the fact that healthcare workers were primarily getting infected as a result of taking off PPE incorrectly, the proper donning and doffing of PPE became the new normal."

Ms. Pettis is already starting to see that sort of messaging growing out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but knows the real work lies ahead. "That's the charge for infection preventionists," says Ms. Pettis. "We need to constantly message, educate, create policies and procedures, audit, get out and interact with staff and conduct one-to-one training."

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