Infection control requires ongoing education

(Editor’s note: In this second part of a two-part series on infection control, we tell you how to educate on a continuing basis; we discuss the important of good preparation of the surgical site; and we tell you about a facility that achieves a 75% return rate on its physician surveys. In last month’s issue, we told you how to control infections in the outpatient surgery setting.)

Infection control is not something to discuss only at inservices, says Ellen O’Connor-Graham, RN, CNOR. She is chairman of the Ambulatory Surgery Specialty Assembly of the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses in Denver, and a surgical nurse in the women’s operating room at Huntsville (AL) Hospital. Informal education can take place anywhere at anytime, even in the operating room, O’Connor-Graham says.

"The circulating nurse is ultimately responsible for protecting the sterile field and should be watching for things that other members of the team may not see," she says. For example, the circulating nurse is in the best position to see a team member touch a nonsterile item, then move back to the sterile field, O’Connor-Graham says. The circulating nurse’s job is to make sure the contaminated item or glove is removed and replaced with a sterile one, she adds.

Keep staff updated on new techniques

The same-day surgery staff at Henry Medical Center in Stockbridge, GA, also have ongoing inservices that cover infection control techniques, descriptions of new infections, latest trends, and other topics related to infection control, says Sherron Kurtz, RN, MSA, CNOR, CNAA, director of perioperative services. "We make sure our staff members know that they are an important part of our infection control program," says Kurtz. "If anyone overhears a physician mention a postoperative infection, a report is made to our infection nurse so she can follow up with the physician," she explains. These "leads" help the infection control nurse ensure accurate data, she adds.

A post-op infection rate of less than 1% is the norm at St. Alexius Same Day Surgery Center in Bismarck, ND, because infection control is covered in every monthly staff meeting, says Sandy Berreth, RN, director of the surgery center. "We discuss the results of our post-op infection monitor," Berreth says. "If there was an infection, I present the type of infection and how it was treated, she says. "We then talk about what we could have done to prevent the infection." (See "A clean site reduces infection" and "Survey program monitors surgical site infections," in this issue.)