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How We Beat Hospital Infections

April 21st, 2008

by Nick Jacobs

For a decade now, we have been bragging about Windber Medical Center’s low infection rates. The cynics simply declare that it is due to a lack of patients, but this year 153,000 patients would probably differ with you. For those who know that this rate of infection is accurate and real, our amazing housekeeping staff is given the credit. That fact is not arguable for me. They are remarkable, but I know there is more to the story.

Recently, we once again produced annual infection rates that are well below the average national rate of nine percent. In fact, they are eight percent below that figure. Although I believe that our outstanding success is due to our total and complete commitment to patient centered care, for those of you who are in need of more quantitative substantiation that is less subjective, we decided to provide that for you as well. So, we went directly to the source, our infection control specialist, Carol, and asked her to elaborate on some of the steps that she takes on a daily basis. Here is her response.

"This is a listing of just a few things that we do to assure that we keep our infection rates low. Education is the most important factor. Keeping employees informed of up to date information on infections is the primary basis of our success. Yearly education includes hand hygiene, infection control, all transmission based precautions, Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus (MRSA), and other related updates as needed.

If a nosocomial infection is noted, each floor that might be impacted by that patient’s presence is notified so they can focus enhanced attention on the necessary appropriate care each patient receives.

With special attention on rooms utilized by the patients who have an infection, education is also made available to all environmental services department employees on terminal cleaning of rooms.

Brochures have been created for all staff during the orientation process for Hand Hygiene. During the orientation process they are given information on Infection Control. They are also taught to report concerns relating to infections to the Infection Control Practitioner to evaluate and provide recommendations.

Alcohol based hand foams are available in all patient and ancillary rooms on the floors. Every bathroom is equipped with approved antibacterial soaps. Hand hygiene observation rounds are completed twice weekly, and when non-compliance is observed, the employee is immediately informed of the deficiency.

Each day we review all of the cultures that have been processed though our lab. These cultures are investigated for outpatient, inpatient, and nursing homes within our area. The investigation determines if Nosocomial or Community acquired infections are present. When suspected as nosocomial, prompt chart reviews are completed both for appropriateness of antibiotic therapy and to ensure that transmission based precautions have been instituted.

Brochures have been created to be placed strategically throughout the facility for our visitors regarding infection control issues and how washing their hands and taking other infection control practices can help significantly.

When necessary, special notices are included in paycheck receipt notification envelopes containing updates on issues that reach levels of concern.

If the surveillance indicates a specific area of concern, to assure that we can observe that area of concern, outbreak investigations are handled promptly and thoroughly. When an employee is found to have an infection, they are not permitted to return to work until they are treated with the appropriate antibiotics and their culture examination exhibits no growth.

Counseling is provided to patients and their families on outbreaks of MRSA or other infections that occur within the home. They are given instructions, and information, and they are also free to call me with any concerns or questions. Also available are the recent documents that have been published by the Pennsylvania Hospital Health Care Cost Containment. "

In closing, if you’re initial response to this list is “we do all of that, and still have a major infection problem,” then bring in the therapy dogs, open your facility to 24 hour visits, add fresh flowers, decorative fountains, guest accommodations for care partners, fresh bread baking machines, therapeutic music and humor, massage, reiki, aroma therapy and acupuncture. It’s a Planetree thing.


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