At risk of being overwhelmed by data collection demands, infection preventionists are also arguably at their highest profile in the field’s history in a time of Ebola, MERS, and the threat of other emerging infections and pandemics. Real reductions in healthcare infections once considered inevitable are proving possible for those that can find the time and resources to intervene and implement prevention strategies. For today’s IP, the opposite poles are the infamous silo and the patient bedside.
Fittingly, some 4,300 IPs at the recent APIC conference in Nashville heard tales of woe and heroism. Research reported at the meeting calculated that it can take as much as a mind-numbing five hours a day to meet all the reporting requirements for healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) to federal agencies and regulators. (See Hospital Infection Control & Prevention, July 2015, page 81.) At the other extreme, IPs shared extraordinary accounts from the frontlines of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Which way is the field headed? The national furor over the American Ebola cases certainly brought infection prevention into the spotlight, with one post-mortem report on the response arguing that IPs should be fully funded to bring their expertise to the forefront in such times.1
The outbreak revealed that the thin line between the patient and infection is typically one overworked IP with little surge capacity. APIC took the unusual step of holding a press conference to warn that other infections may increase as IPs devoted all of their time to training workers to protect themselves from Ebola. That national priority of antibiotic stewardship has also heightened the IP profile, with current APIC president Mary Lou Fanning, PhD, invited to attend a recent White House summit on the issue.
“We were thrilled to be able submit APIC’s name and application and have APIC and infection preventionists represented at this very special forum,” Katrina Crist, MBA, APIC CEO, said at the opening session of the conference. “For the first time also this year, the chairs of all our [APIC] committees actually went to Capitol Hill. We are starting to educate Congress and connect with them on who APIC is — use APIC’s influence and bring infection preventionists to talk to them very directly. And we have had impact already with just one visit. The board of directors will also go this year in September and will follow up on that.”
The goal is to demonstrate the value of infection prevention programs and secure full funding for IP programs. “We all know the value of what you do and we want to bring that forward and help you evolve with the changing environment,” she said.
To do that, APIC will use the time-honored epidemiological approach: establish a baseline. Yes, that means more data collection, but this time about infection preventionists themselves.
APIC is urging IPs to take a collective look in the mirror and complete an unprecedented “MegaSurvey” to bring a profession at the crossroads into sharp demographic focus. The detailed information collected will not only set a baseline, but “frame the future” for the profession, Crist said. The survey will collect crucial information related to IP demographics, organizational structure, practice and competencies, and compensation.
Understanding how other infection prevention programs are structured and staffed, as well as how much other IPs are paid based on experience, credentials, competencies, and regional differences, are just a few of the ways this data can provide opportunities for the individual IPs, APIC notes.
A highly informed view of the field is going to be critical if IPs are to get out to the wards and bedsides and be vocal advocates for patient safety and worker health. As high profile as the field has become as a voice of evidence-based reason during the emergence of Ebola and MERS, there are the aforementioned pressures that threaten to relegate IPs back to the computer screen, crunching numbers.
- Presidential Committee for the study of Bioethical Issues. Ethics and Ebola: Public Health Planning and Response. Feb. 2015: http://1.usa.gov/1BMv0Ut.