iP Newbe

The new kid at the cool lunch table

'I just made it very personal.'

Stacey TaylorStacey Taylor RN,BSN, entered her job as a rookie infection preventionist with much more optimism than experience, ready to take on a new role she saw as both interesting and important. Then, like some shunned geek in high school, she realized that most unpleasant of surprises: infection control was, in a word, unpopular.

"I didn't realize that people viewed infection control so negatively, in a sense," says the IP at North Hills Hospital in North Richland Hills, TX. "So that was hard to overcome and make it more of a positive thing. It has become that now. Now, people are more apt to ask me questions because I am out on the floor all the time, getting involved in stuff. But that was a huge thing to overcome."

That's right, Taylor got caught in the long held perception that infection preventionists are the "police" of hand hygiene and a few million other things. No wonder people scattered when she walked down the halls. Nothing if not resilient, she decided to keep walking the walk, being present and patient, talking to any who would listen.

"Really, just being accessible made all the difference in the world," Taylor says. "Most people were resistant , but eventually I got to know them by name, to know about their lives, and I just made it very personal. It should be."

No silo, no problem

Thus without really knowing the history of the field, she overcame one of its biggest obstacles: the silo, where too many IPs have sat too long, crunching infection rate numbers and mastering the technical aspects of the job.

"The office takes a lot of time too — don't get me wrong," she says. "Believe me, I can get stuck in here all day if I let myself. But I can't. I can't see what's going on if I am not out there."

And yes, there is a little "policing" that goes on, but with a human touch by a member of a team.

"I do look for hand washing and PPE compliance," she says "I have created an isolation form that goes in the chart — with a sticker on the outside of the chart. That helps communication so I always make sure that is being met. And I just talk to the charge nurses, people along the floors, and ask them how they are doing. Do they have any concerns or questions?"

As she got to know the staff, the questions and comments came more frequently. "I'm involved with everybody, and we all work together as a team," she says. "So a lot of it is just me being there because I make rounds everyday — everybody knows me. That has made the biggest impact."

The novice IP has gone from pariah to popular in her own right, even recruiting staff to join her newly formed "Germinator" team.

"I'm trying to get someone from every department," Taylor says. "They are my eyes. They can see more than I can and communicate more because they are out there all the time."

Duly deputized, these IP collaborators set their own annual goals and they give Taylor a monthly status report.

"They tell me the education that is needed, the education that was given, and praise their people that have done a great job," she says. "I send "thank you" letters or little gift cards to those that were acknowledged. It gets them involved and that way I can communicate with them better."

Geez, it's tempting to say she's got them "washing" out of her hands, but Taylor has learned enough about infection prevention to know it can be suddenly humbling. Her advice to IP newbies: "Just be patient, because it is not going to make any sense at first. Realize you can't change it all right now."

Drawing on a culinary analogy, Taylor likens infection prevention to a scene straight from one of those bizarre shows on the Food Network. "It's like eating an elephant bite by bite," she says.