10 Key Trends in Infection Control

At the 19th Annual Ambulatory Surgery Centers Conference in Chicago on Oct. 26, Dotty Bollinger, RN, JD, CASC, LHRM, COO of the Laser Spine Institute, gave 10 key trends in infection control for ambulatory surgery centers. She said that if ASC leaders focus on these 10 aspects of infection control, the center should have excellent infection rates.

1. Employ a qualified infection prevention specialist. Ms. Bollinger said that this person should be trained and know what Medicare is looking for in infection prevention. She also mentioned that the CDC has free resources on infection control standards as well.

2. Have a written plan. The plan should be accessible to the ASC staff and should be meaningful to the ASC's population, so that it actually gets used.

3. Focus on staff education. Ms. Bollinger recommended that ASC leaders find someone that is on the surgical tech team who is excited about infection control to lead the education. "It does not have to be a top-down approach," she said. She recommended using hand washing contests, for example, to make the staff excited about infection control.

4. Focus on hand washing. Ms. Bollinger stressed that the simple things matter the most, and said that it is easy for staff to get complacent about hand washing. She said hand washing and sanitation stations need to be readily accessible to the staff. Alcohol-based hand rubs are the most effective way to wash care providers' hands, according to Ms. Bollinger.

5. Give the team the right tools for the job. If the staff is not happy with the hand soap or lotion provided, bring in vendors to show off new products and involve the staff in picking the new products, she recommended. After the products have been purchased, she said to make sure they are in user-friendly, accessible storage. "Don't lock them up in your office," she said.

6. Remember that respiratory hygiene matters. Ms. Bollinger said to supply visual alerts to remind staff and patients to cough or sneeze into their arm and to cover their mouths. "You do not want people coughing and hacking in your waiting room," she said, because the issue matters to patients who do not want to get sick. She also recommended providing tissues and proper waste receptacles for staff and patients alike.

7. Maintain a clean environment. Even though this may be an expensive area for ASCs to maintain, Ms. Bollinger said centers cannot take shortcuts, such as watering down disinfectants. She stressed the importance of knowing proper sterilization procedures and educating staff.

8. Do not get complacent about proper sterilization. Ms. Bollinger said that every piece of equipment should be cleaned to the manufacturers' specifications. If no one on the staff knows those specifications, Ms. Bollinger said most of them are available online for free.

9. Consider reprocessing. If an ASC is considering reprocessing, Ms. Bollinger said to find a good partner and noted that the FDA has good information available on reprocessing on its website.

10. Perform regular surveys and audits. The audits can be fun and get competitive, Ms. Bollinger said. She stressed the importance of involving the staff and to make it part of the ASC's culture. Then, it will become a habit, according to Ms. Bollinger.

Throughout the presentation, Ms. Bollinger stressed that it is easy for ASC staff members to get complacent about infection control. Therefore, it is important to keep staff involved and invested in infection control.

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