Spreading the word about new infection control policies or procedures

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When a new document such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disinfection and sterilization guidelines gets issued, infection control professionals (ICPs) often need to train staff members on new procedures, which is easier said than done.

Nurses in most hospitals are notoriously busy, and it can be nearly impossible to wrench them away from the floor. ICPs may also find themselves competing with other department heads also trying to train staff members on entirely different topics, says Candace Friedman, BS, MT (ASCP), MPH, CIC, director of infection control (IC) and epidemiology at the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers in Ann Arbor.

In these instances, ICPs are unlikely to find a one-size-fits-all approach that works. Instead, different methods may be necessary to educate staff members.

Maureen Spencer, RN, MEd, IC manager at New England Baptist Hospital in Boston and an APIC member, says ICPS should review the new information to decide what changes will be needed and what training will be necessary. If there are major changes to implement in her facility, Spencer sets up education sessions with her staff and updates the IC committee.

The following are some tips ICPs can use at your facility to improve training methods with your staff:

1. Keep it simple. Provide written information and use an easy-to-read format, such as bullet points. Don’t present staff members with a big block of heavy text and expect them to plow through it, says Friedman.

2. Send out monthly newsletters and e-mail bulletins. These are good ways to deliver information quickly, but be sure to pair these delivery methods with other tactics, because staff sometimes don't have the time to read everything.

3. Use new technology. Podcasts are being used by some hospitals to quickly train staff members in their free time.

4. Use IC liaisons. Liaisons serve as conduits for information from IC to individual departments. Information is passed along to the liaisons and disseminated to staff in their departments.

5. Use lectures, but sparingly. In many hospitals, lecture time has pretty much gone by the wayside, says Friedman. Although this format still works for new employee orientation training, it’s often impractical to use on a regular basis.

6. Try Internet-based training. Friedman says her facility often uses digitized videos on a Web site, which allows staff members to perform training in their own time frame.

7. Put on a show. Years ago when the new isolation precautions came out, IC staff members wanted to do something memorable, says Andrea Cromer, RN, CIC, a nurse clinician at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC, and vice chair for APIC’s communication council. IC staff members decided to use skits and role-playing exercises to get the message across. This broke the monotony of the typical training and got people’s attention. But this type of exercise is best saved for big changes, not small updates, says Cromer.

8. Be creative. Adapt training to fit staffs' needs. “Unfortunately, there is no one, surefire mechanism that works,” says Friedman.