Q&A: The passion of Denise Murphy
'Everyday people tell their story about loved ones lost to infections.'
After three-decades in infection prevention, Denise Murphy, RN, MPH, CIC, is now Vice President of Quality and Patient Safety at Main Line Health in suburban Philadelphia. As an infection preventionist, Murphy served as president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), and in 2010 was honored with the group's highest honor, the Carole Demille Award. It's not often you talk to an IP who has gone on to become a hospital executive, so we asked Murphy to explain her source of motivation and commitment to readers of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.
HIC: Even though you have moved on to hospital administration as a vice president you still list the certified in infection prevention (CIC) in your title.
Murphy: "I maintain my certification. It's a big deal, though it is getting harder. For me to keep certification is a commitment. It's a commitment to who I am at my core — an IP. I feel that an IP can do any job. If you do this job well, you become an expert on surveillance, epidemiology, change management and data analysis and performance improvement. You develop leadership competencies. I know that I would not be a system vice president if I wasn't an IP first for so many years. It prepared me for my current role."
HIC: How has that changed your perspective?
Murphy:"I understand now sitting at the table every week with a team of executive leaders that run hospitals, that their book of work is unimaginable. They know that infection prevention is important from a strategic point of view. They don't have the time or capacity to hold all the details of the world of infection prevention and what the IP brings to the table. Having been an IP and having directed programs across many hospitals, I have lived at the frontline. There is nothing like walking in somebody's shoes so I'm passionate about infection prevention."
HIC: Yes, I have heard you speak with great intensity about infection prevention, where does that come from?
Murphy: "Why do I know how to tell a story about the importance of prevention? Not just because I did the job for years, but also because my mother died of a health care associated infection. Why do I love this so much? Because when I get up every day, after being a wife, a mother — now a 'grammy' — I am first and foremost a nurse that has dedicated myself to patient care. I have seen risk and unreliable care in ICUs and operating rooms and all the places I worked through a 30-year career in infection prevention. I watched people die of preventable infections because we were just too busy to wash hands, or too busy to scrub the hub before entering a central line. As a daughter, I watched my own mother die of an HAI while I sat by helplessly after all those years in infection prevention and I realized now it has happened to me. It happens to so many people. When it's reported that 100,000 people a year die of infections, I believe that is such an underestimate. When we personalize our surveillance data, it's about people being harmed. My mom died from infection, poor patient safety, missed diagnosis, and untimely intervention. I was really angry thinking about all of the people before me and all of the people after me that would be experiencing my pain and loss. Everyday people come to work and can tell their own personal story about loved ones lost to infections."
HIC: Part of the culture change that has occurred in infection prevention in recent years has been a move to empower the patient, informing them on admission about the risk of HAIs and the role of the hospital IP.
Murphy: "You can't go to a conference now about quality and patient safety without hearing about the role of the patient and patient engagement. We are changing societally from people who are afraid to speak up to those who ask challenging questions of their clinicians. When people walk into the hospital they become so incredibly vulnerable, but this is changing generationally. My generation is much more outspoken to our care providers than our parent's generation. Our kid's generation have little fear of speaking up. Engaging patients and families, giving them knowledge and tools to use is so powerful, as is understanding you have advocates in the hospital. It is changing the paradigm of negativity and can combat the frightening kind of media that scares people to death of American hospitals."