iP Newbe

Part II: 'The Just One More Thing Strategy'

By Patti Grant, RN, BSN, MS, CIC,

Infection Preventionist, Dallas

Patti Grant[Editor's note: In this issue we continue with the second part of Patti Grant's IP Newbie column that was featured in our September issue. As you may recall, she described an all too common situation: How various professionals in healthcare are expected to participate in activities beyond their original area of expertise. This expectation does not seem so much a direct consequence of the struggling economy as a reflection of the attempt by various specialties to move from "silos" to a team approach to problem solving, Grant noted, observing that "Patient safety will most likely be less precarious in this multi-disciplinary improvement environment, but it can come with hefty growing pains." Of course, as an IP Newbie, you're often the one growing.]

As a novice infection preventionist you have already discovered that your initial skillset centers around the field of epidemiology. Aside from all the "must-need-to-knows" — such as sterilization, disinfection, infectious diseases and isolation — you'll soon discover something else: Your investigative, problem-solving and data analysis/presentation skills can be applied to almost any untoward healthcare prevention project.

As you mature in your IP career those in your employment milieu are sure to notice these valuable qualities also. For example, it will not be a far stretch for you to be recruited as an active member of a medication error or fall prevention team, simply because you are going to be exceptional at data analysis and interventional epidemiology. Yet as stated in Part I of this series: Just because you are often the best choice for these non-infectious prevention event teams, it does not necessarily make you the correct person. Your primary responsibility is the long-range and multi-faceted challenge of helping others prevent infections.

Based on this reality you should have the "Just One More Thing Strategy" in your team-player stash of coping mechanisms. After sharing with your immediate supervisor concerns about project management conflicts — based on adding another prevention initiative — consider the following actions:

  • Prepare a short (no more than six slides) PowerPoint to illustrate the bare minimum infection prevention responsibilities for state/federal reporting, The Joint Commission, all forms of surveillance, etc.
  • Lead a discussion with your C-Suite on what can be 'eliminated' from IP&C so the new initiative can be absorbed properly to maintain patient safety. Stop following CLABSI? No longer report to the local health authority? Eliminate VAP surveillance? Who else will do these functions when this new non-infectious prevention responsibility is added?
  • Depending on your organizational structure share that this IP&C plan alteration will be reported to the IP&C Committee, Executive Committee, and Hospital Board of Directors.

You might have a "win-win" environment regardless of the new responsibility query at hand. The goal here is to help others "see" your hesitation based on a true inability to inherit the project in the here and now. Even if the answer is 'you will do this as part of your basic job expansion' you have presented that IP&C in general, and not you as a person, has reached maximum capacity for productivity. More importantly, you've had the opportunity to share your role and that is always a good thing for patient safety.