4 Creative Ways to Create a Culture of Infection Control

Reducing infection rates is always a goal for surgery centers, but getting buy-in from 100 percent of a center's staff can be challenging. Scott J. Trimas, MD, FACS, a Florida facial plastic surgeon and otolaryngologist who serves as a surveyor for AAAHC and as a consultant for its subsidiary, Healthcare Consultants International, says ASCs generally do a good job of infection control, but there's always room for improvement.

In his work as an AAAHC surveyor, Dr. Trimas sees noncompliance as issues such as hand hygiene, reporting patients with communicable disease to the CDC and proper processes for multi-use vials. He says involving staff is key to reducing infection and safety issues.

"One of the ways to support infection control is to create a culture of wanting to reduce infections, of wanting to maintain a sanitary environment," he says.

Dr. Trimas shares four creative ideas for creating a culture of infection control in a surgery center.

1. Appoint a nurse leader of the infection control program. Dr. Trimas recommends appointing a nurse leader of the center's infection control program.

"Any infection control program has to have a leader," he says. "A leader is usually a nurse that's in charge of the overall infection control program and is really on the lookout."

The leader makes sure staff is washing their hands and wearing personal protective equipment, in addition to making sure areas are kept sterile and clean. This includes the operating rooms as well as the pre-op and post-op areas.

"The staff, sometimes they're in a hurry, and they don't wipe things down," he says. "[The leader should] remind staff anything that's touched needs to be wiped down."

2. Have staff look out for each other. Dr. Trimas says nurses are generally more compliant with infection control protocols, so he recommends appointing one nurse a week to keep an eye on other staff members — including surgeons and anesthesiologists who are not following protocol.

Dr. Trimas says there is some reluctance among nursing staff to report surgeons and other physicians for failing to follow hand hygiene protocol, but by creating a culture where whistleblowers do not face repercussions, that reluctance can be removed.

3. Install cameras above handwashing stations. One of the biggest areas of noncompliance Dr. Trimas has seen in his work as a surveyor is a lack of handwashing. He estimates a compliance rate of 60-70 percent in surgery centers. Dr. Trimas also says this is the single best way to prevent infection. One creative method he has seen to encourage proper hand hygiene is installing cameras over the scrub sink or in the operating room so someone can watch in real time to check if staff is washing their hands.

4. Include handwashing as part of patient satisfaction survey. One creative way to encourage staff to adhere to protocols is by taking the control out of their hands and putting it into the patients'. Dr. Trimas says he has seen some centers include a question about handwashing on the patient satisfaction survey. Some centers and hospitals have even begun to hang signs in exam rooms encouraging patients to ask physicians if they have washed their hands.

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