The pandemic has highlighted the important work performed by surgical professionals and infection preventionists in surgery centers across the country as concerns about COVID-19 and its emerging variants continue to demand their immediate attention. Colleen Chiodo, MSN, RN, CNOR, advanced nurse clinician at Virtua Health System in South Jersey, notes that several steps have been put into place at her facility to help limit exposure to active infections, including requiring all patients to show proof of vaccination or get tested for COVID-19 prior to coming in for their procedures. These requirements are checked the day before surgery to ensure compliance. “Additionally, in the OR and PACU, staff are required to don N95 masks and wear goggles during patient interactions,” adds Ms. Chiodo.
Pandemic-related changes to facility policies demand having strong communication channels in place, points out Lori Groven, MSPHN, RN, CIC, infection preventionist at TRIA Orthopedic Center in Bloomington, Minn. For example, constant updates to visitor restrictions, vaccine mandates, PPE requirements and even supply chain issues that could cause staff to use various cleaning products with different instructions for use are important to relay to the front line.
“Our primary way to communicate is through email, but during the height of the pandemic, with so many changes occurring seemingly by the week, we increased our methods to include visits to staff meetings, putting information on bulletin boards and adding updates to daily huddles,” says Ms. Groven. “We wanted to make the information sharing as clear and effective as possible.”
At the same time, surgery center infection preventionists must remain focused on implementing and overseeing proper skin prepping practices, nasal decolonization programs, strong room turnover protocols and hand hygiene compliance that combine to lower the risks of surgical site infections (SSIs).