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Regroup and Resume
After tirelessly fighting the pandemic, it’s time to refocus your infection control efforts.
Donna Nucci, RN, MS, CIC
Publish Date: May 20, 2021   |  Tags:   Infection Prevention

You’re probably beyond exhausted right now. As the pandemic raged on relentlessly over the past year, you worked ceaselessly and went to extraordinary lengths to maintain safe patient care. You and your staff have done an extraordinary job.

In some facilities, however, we’re beginning to see the indirect effects of working under the constant pressure and stress brought on by COVID-19. For instance, there’s been an uptick in surgery-related infections. The pandemic has led to burnout, which has led to staffing turnover and, in many cases, turnover leaves organizations scrambling to fill gaps in care or failing to provide proper training for staff. Maybe, in light of COVID-19, some facilities have been so focused on the donning and doffing of proper PPE that other preventive measures have been overlooked. Additionally, many patients have delayed their surgeries for months. In some cases, the delays have raised the difficulty level and risks of already complex procedures. The challenges of preventing surgical site infections (SSIs) have increased in turn.

Of course, the reasons for the uptick in infections are ultimately irrelevant. We need to find ways to reverse the trend. This involves stepping back, refocusing our efforts and getting back to the basics of infection control. In this special edition of Outpatient Surgery Magazine, you’ll find an assortment of actionable advice on everything from traditional SSI-prevention strategies and surface cleaning techniques to the promising potential of high-tech solutions such as UV light disinfecting systems.

Look at what your infection rates were in 2020 and where they’re headed this year to determine the best practices you need to implement. What type of augmented infection control training does your staff need to succeed in a post-pandemic world? 

Trust me, I know how difficult it is to add even more steps to comprehensive infection control practices. I recently presented on the adjustments long-term care facilities had to make because of COVID-19, and there were 30 specific changes. That’s 30 different concerns on top of the normal protocols staff had to follow in order to prevent healthcare-acquired infections in their patients.

Now is the time to get back to the nuts and bolts of preventing healthcare-acquired infections.

Your facility is likely facing similar challenges, which can be overwhelming. But what you do from an infection prevention standpoint is of paramount importance to your patients. I try to keep this top of mind each day. It’s why I take every patient interaction, every gap in care or near miss so seriously. I remind myself that a single incident of improper hand hygiene, incorrectly scrubbing the surgical site or not giving the proper preoperative antibiotics could mean the difference between a successful surgery and a poor or potentially fatal outcome. When you remember that missed steps could ultimately lead to somebody losing their mother or father, their brother, sister or their child, it’s a lot easier to prevent them from occurring.

The aftereffects of the pandemic will impact infection control practices for the foreseeable future. That’s OK. We know what we have to do to perform safe surgery, and we have proven protocols in place. Now is the time to get back to the nuts and bolts of preventing healthcare-acquired infections. Take a hard look at your risk assessments and infection-prevention protocols. Stabilize what your key components were before the pandemic hit, add in the COVID-19-specific elements and move forward with confidence. OSM