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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Do the right thing: Change culture to support HCWs

Health care workers who want to “do the right thing” must be supported by a culture change that recognizes infection prevention as a system problem that warrants a system solution, said Elaine Larson, PhD, professor of pharmaceutical and therapeutic Research at the Columbia University School of Nursing in New York City.

“We need to move from a perspective where your `client’ is the individual physician or nurse. Your client is the system,” Larson said recently in Baltimore at the annual meeting of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control & Epidemiolgy. “We are we now called upon much more to be leaders. We are at the table and we need a skill set [for that mission]. You have to own it.”

A leading researcher on hand hygiene -- infection prevention’s cardinal principle and enduring challenge – Larson shared a personal anecdote at a packed session at the APIC conference.

“I remember when I was a nursing student working night shifts as a nursing assistant,” she said. “After my first few weeks, one of the other nursing assistants said to me, “When are taking your sick day?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m not sick. She said you have to take your sick day every month because we all do, and if you don’t it’s really going to [make us mad]. It was a huge dilemma and I think I only stayed there three months. But if I had stayed on that unit – these were professional nursing assistants that had been there a long time – that’s a huge amount of pressure. It’s really hard -- even if you want to do the right thing. So we have to see the unit as our client, not individuals. It’s too hard for people to fight, kick against [the prevailing culture.]”

For more on this story see the August 2011 issue of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.