AOHP ‘on a mission' to educate EHPs

Preparedness, patient handling on tap

At BJC Healthcare in St. Louis, people began to amass, seeking prophylaxis against an emerging infection. Some at the hospital had small children in tow. Some had elderly parents with Alzheimer's disease. Some couldn't speak English. Healthy adults were ushered to an area marked with green, pediatrics to yellow, and those with special needs to red.

Fortunately, this "outbreak" wasn't real. It was a regional drill to test the distribution of the strategic national stockpile as prophylaxis to hospital employees and their family members.

Members of the emergency preparedness team watched for gaps in planning that might lead to chaos or confusion during mass distribution of medication or vaccination.

Their conclusions from conducting this exercise will be presented as one of about a dozen poster presentations at "AOHP On a Mission," the up-coming annual conference of the Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare (AOHP), to be held Oct. 12-15 in San Antonio. Speakers at the conference will cover topics ranging from patient handling to latent tuberculosis. (For more information, see editor's note at the end of this article.)

This is the first time in several years that AOHP has included poster presentations, notes Jan Frustaglia, RN, CCM, COHN-S, 2005 conference chair and program coordinator of the Health Professions Institute at Austin (TX) Community College. The presentations will focus on success stories shared by other employee health professionals, she says.

AOHP also will have a larger exhibition area with more vendors, allowing attendees to get a hands-on experience with new technology, she says. The exhibits will include ceiling lifts, other patient handling equipment, and new safety-engineered sharps.

The AOHP program includes the popular "Getting Started" session, as well as workshops for seasoned employee health professionals. "We try to meet the broad expectations of our members," Frustaglia adds.

In her poster session, Nancy Gemeinhart, RN, CIC manager of occupational infection control at BJC Healthcare, says she will stress the importance of conducting a communitywide drill and developing key partnerships for successful mass prophylaxis. The BJC exercise had regionwide participation and used role-playing volunteers. The scenario involved anthrax, but it could apply to pandemic influenza or other infectious diseases, she notes.

"Drill, drill, drill," she says. "As you develop these plans you have to drill them to identify any gaps."

Editor's note: "AOHP On a Mission," the 2005 annual conference, will be held Oct. 12-15 in San Antonio. More information is available from AOHP, 109 VIP Drive, Suite 220, Wexford, PA 15090. Phone: (800) 362-4347. Fax: (724) 935-1560. Web site: www.aohp.org.