“Designating rather than dedicating is an important distinction, as having someone do the role that isn’t allocated for the proper time doesn’t work,” said Jopp. “We have seen the consequences of not having adequate IPC (infection prevention control) infrastructure and staffing and it proved deadly,” said Jopp, noting the more than 200,000 fatalities in long-term care facilities during the pandemic.
“A lot of this (was due) to an inadequate infection control structure, and a lack of dedicated staffing.”
In addition to creating career pathways, there also needs to be broad “appreciation for what IPs do” – including buy-in and support at the C-suite level – and resources to support the role and to prevent burnout, said Jopp. This is especially important among what the industry calls “oners” – the lone professionals with the job of developing, implementing and monitoring infection prevention within their facility.
“They’re an army of one,” said Jopp. “For those individuals, their (organizations) have to make sure that they’re effectively cross training and that they have additional strategies in place to support their well-being, as they can’t be at the job 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for a full year.”
Jopp said APIC also is focused on helping to lower the rate of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), which have remained high since the pandemic. “How do we really get HAIs back to pre-COVID-19 levels, and then even improve on that? Much of our focus has been identifying best practices – who is doing this well, and hopefully moving this work forward through quality improvement projects.”
He also suggested implementing “learning collaboratives,” so that organizations can share what’s working with colleagues at other healthcare systems.
In addition, APIC is looking at potential protocols around the emerging “hospital-at-home” care model that many healthcare systems are either considering or piloting.
“What does infection prevention and control look like when you’re now caring for patients at home?” said Jopp. “It’s a completely different landscape and one in which we have to make sure we have adequate IPC infrastructure and staffing in place to keep patients safe.”
The value of strategic partners
During the Forum, Jopp welcomed and discussed the value of bringing strategic partners – like Medline, an APIC strategic partner – together to discuss these and other infection prevention issues.
“Aligning messaging to amplify and support each other is really important,” said Jopp. “Medline does such a great job at this. Knowledge transfer between our partners, APIC and its members is critical. Having organizations like Medline at the table is tremendously important. We’re stronger together tackling these critical topics.
“At the end of the day, IPs can’t be IPs without having all the necessary resources and innovation surrounding them. That’s an important part of their success too.”
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