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Cost-effective ways to strengthen your facility’s infection control program

Patient safety

Cost-effective ways to strengthen your facility’s infection control program

After reading this article, you will be able to:

  • Identify cost-effective strategies to bolster your facility’s infection control (IC) program
  • List free resources that provide updated information on IC practices

If you work in the healthcare industry today, you are likely feeling the pressure of doing more with less. It is probable that the act of asking for additional resources or more money will be followed with someone shaking his or her head no. But that falloff doesn’t mean quality of care should decrease.

Despite tough economic times, there are several ways you can improve your facility’s IC practices at little or no cost. The following seven steps can help reduce infection, regardless of your budget:

1. Reminder posters and e-mails. Following proper IC procedures is often second nature to seasoned nurses and physicians. They walk into patient rooms and wash their hands without thinking twice. But sometimes staff members develop bad habits, such as improperly removing gloves or neglecting hand hygiene. Place posters or signs above sinks, in patient rooms, or high-traffic areas as constant reminders to staff members about prevention measures. Also, don’t neglect technology. Group e-mails with IC tips that are fast and easy to digest can serve as a daily or weekly reminder.

2. Recruit someone on the inside. Many IC programs make use of IC liaisons or appoint staff members to champion IC efforts. Often, a nurse who is on the floor and has developed relationships with other staff members can influence them.

“They can be your eyes and ears on the floor,” says Terri Rebmann, PhD, RN, CIC, associate director of curricular affairs and assistant professor at the Institute for Biosecurity at Saint Louis University School of Public Health. “[Appoint] someone who already has infection control experience that the staff trusts,” says Rebmann.

3. Pay attention to IC literature. “[The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)] guidelines are some of the backbone of what we teach,” says Libby Chinnes, RN, BSN, CIC, IC consultant at IC Solutions, LLC, in Mount Pleasant, SC. The CDC Web site ( is constantly updated and offers the most recent information for IC practices. Free downloadable features include the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America and the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s Compendium of Strategies to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections in Acute Care Hospitals and printable FAQ sheets for healthcare-associated infections (HAI).

Also, stay connected to other colleagues to learn tips on how they implement evidence-based recommendations, says Chinnes. Recycling these ideas can save time and money, while bringing a new approach to your facility.

4. Concentrate on UTIs. In the past, Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, PA, focused primarily on the big, expensive infections such as surgical site infections, ventilator infections, and central line infections, says Terry Burger, BSN, RN, CIC, CNA, BC, director of IC at Lehigh Valley. But beginning in 2007, the hospital made a greater effort to focus on urinary tract infections (UTI).

“Although [UTIs] probably cost less than the other infections, they have the largest volume,” Burger says.

Lehigh Valley’s IC department created a UTI bundle, including a checklist for frontline staff members, and rolled out facilitywide education in an effort to reduce infections.

5. Inform your visitors. Wetzel County Hospital in New Martinsville, WV, recently implemented the Protect Our Patients (POP) program, launched by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology and funded by Clorox. Part of the initiative involves educating visitors on the role they play in infection prevention.

The hospital has begun giving visitors “POP” quizzes and has placed disinfectant wipes at the hospital’s entrance for visitors to use.

6. Give positive feedback. HAIs are a serious problem and detrimental to patients’ health, so a lot of negativity is associated with them. But too much negativity is sure to kill employee morale. If a department of your hospital is reducing infection rates, spread the word. Everyone likes recognition for their efforts, and it may light a fire under other departments to improve their infec-tion rates.

7. Provide incentives. Even the smallest incentives can motivate employees during the economic slump.

Lori Jensen, RN, a clinical consultant at Ansell Healthcare in Red Bank, NJ, says she has seen infection preventionists (IP) track employee hand hygiene and glove compliance. The IPs post compliance percentages on a board, replacing employee names with numbers to protect confidentially, so employees can see how they compare with other staff members.

“Sometimes, on top of that, they would give little goodie bags to the highest-percentage person and say this person got the highest numbers, just to recognize them in front of everybody,” Jensen says. “That kind of stuff, it really goes a long way.”


Adapted from Briefings on Infection Control, April 2009, HCPro, Inc.