The two major infection control associations in the United States are forging a forward-thinking partnership. It includes several major initiatives that will be enacted this year, with efforts underway to bring in patient and consumer advocates and collaborate in presentations and published papers.
To be clear, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) are composed of, respectively, infection preventionists and hospital epidemiologists. There has always been a collegial but professional fault line, given that SHEA is comprised primarily of physicians and many APIC members come from nursing backgrounds.
However, it has become increasingly clear that APIC and SHEA need to unify on the considerable common ground they share, raising the profile of both organizations through the message that infection prevention is a critical component of patient care.
“We have been talking a lot about how to work together, and not just between APIC and SHEA, but how do we really think ‘big picture,’” Sara Cosgrove, MD, president of SHEA, said during a recent webinar. “Who else do we need to be engaging and who can help us really get our message across? Infection prevention is a critical patient safety issue and we must continue to advocate for resources for all settings.”
Joining Cosgrove at the webinar was Linda Greene, RN, president of APIC, who said the two groups will collaborate on an educational initiative this year to provide training for infection prevention teams.
“Certainly, infection control and hospital epidemiology already have training in place, but we are really talking about leadership training,” Greene said. “We know that APIC and SHEA members have excellent technical skills, but when you are trying to get people [to comply] and your primary goal is to influence care at the bedside, you really need to have what some call socioadaptive skills.”
That means mastering the difficult art of changing human behavior, which has been a longstanding bane to IPs and epidemiologists alike.
“We will also be able to use this to train people in the future,” Greene said. “As we get into the next generation of infection preventionists and epidemiologists, this skill set will help them.”
Another major area of collaboration is antibiotic stewardship, which has become the primary intervention to stop the rise of multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs). As antibiotic stewardship programs continue to be implemented and refined in the nation’s hospitals, APIC and SHEA are issuing a joint position paper outlining the role of infection preventionists and epidemiologists in these programs.
Projected to be published in the coming months, the article will update a 2012 joint paper1 by the two groups that called for measures such as identifying MDROs, monitoring and reporting drug resistance trends, and educating staff on appropriate antibiotic use.
In addition to APIC and SHEA, the article will be co-authored by a member of the Society for Infectious Disease Pharmacists.
“When the paper is published, you will be able to look at a really high-level overview,” Greene said. “It’s called ‘Antimicrobial stewardship and infection prevention: Leveraging the synergy.’”
As an adjunct to this paper, educational sessions on antibiotic stewardship will be held with speakers from both groups at the APIC and SHEA annual conferences in 2018.
Along these lines, executive officers of SHEA and APIC are collaborating on an article aimed at hospital administrators that will be published in a healthcare management journal.
“This will communicate the value of robust infection prevention and hospital epidemiology programs to healthcare executives,” Green said.
Overall, the key areas of support that can be shared by the groups come down to clinical, regulatory, and policy issues, she added.
Another important collaborative goal is to meet with patient advocacy groups, who share powerful stories of the impact of infections. Groups have been formed for patients and family members affected by both MRSA and Clostridium difficile.
“We want to really develop a positive, trusting relationship with these groups and work in partnership around mutual infection prevention goals,” Greene said. “Our leadership has agreed that these groups are really integral to heightening the awareness of the need for infection prevention programs and timely, transparent, and accurate data. We are looking at this from a strategic perspective.”
More mundane partnerships — but ultimately important in terms of logistics and communications — are collaborations among association and society staff and committee members.
“We have become more organized with the SHEA and APIC staff meeting on a regular basis to discuss overlapping issues and ideas,” Cosgrove says. “In addition, we have added formal liaison positions to the public policy, government affairs, and guidelines committees of both organizations. It is a way to have more cross-talk, and also have more interpersonal relationships built between our memberships.”
The deepening partnership in the face of healthcare delivery challenges and budget woes seems very much like an idea whose time has come.
“We are obviously not identical organizations, but we feel strongly that we should identify the areas where we can work together to further the field of infection prevention,” Cosgrove said. “And we will identify where we have differences and can support each other. We want to be progressive and future-oriented in our thinking.”
- Moody J, Cosgrove SE, Olmsted R, et al. Antimicrobial stewardship: A collaborative partnership between infection preventionists and healthcare epidemiologists. AJIC 2012; 40: 94-95.