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Key Members of Your Infection Prevention and Control Team

Posted on 10/16/14

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Infection prevention and control (IPC) teams may range in size from one part-time professional at a small long-term care facility to a dozen or more professionals at a large acute-care hospital. High-performing IPC programs often work collaboratively with staff from multiple disciplines and at all levels of an organization, from boardroom to bedside.

At the top of the organization, an IPC committee -- composed of medical and nursing leadership, departmental managers, and the director of the IPC program -- sets the tone. This committee is responsible for ensuring that the goals and objectives of the program are met. Senior representatives from pharmacy, quality management, occupational health, risk management, environmental services and other clinical specialties may also serve on the committee.

The core IPC team is responsible for developing the organization’s risk assessment, conducting surveillance, developing policies and procedures to minimize healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), overseeing environmental services practices, conducting training programs for staff and patients, and reporting on HAIs as required by local, state and national regulations.

A high-performing infection prevention and control team often has a nurse or physician trained in infection prevention and/or epidemiology as its director. This person reports directly to a member of senior administration. The IPC director continually assesses the effectiveness of existing IP policies and recommends changes as needed. This individual is responsible for ensuring best practices for the prevention of infection are incorporated into the policies and procedures such as hand hygiene, care bundles and that education is provided to all applicable staff. The IPC director typically participates in the organization’s patient safety teams and clinical governance team. The IPC physician, generally board-certified in Infectious Diseases, may serve as the antimicrobial stewardship champion for the facility and advises clinicians and pharmacists on best practices for prescribing of antibiotics based on observed resistance patterns. Larger institutions may have the support of several physicians who serve as hospital epidemiologists.

The infection preventionists are core members of the team and serve as subject matter experts to all levels of staff. They offer inservice training and one-on-one mentoring to improve adherence to and understanding of infection prevention practices. They provide guidance to bedside staff on the initiation and discontinuation of isolation precautions and recommend and facilitate enhanced control measures during outbreaks. They may educate patients on infection prevention techniques that should be used by staff, such as hand hygiene, and help patients with MDROs understand their role in preventing transmission. Because of the work involved in reporting on HAIs, most large organizations also have administrative staff that assists with audit, surveillance and reporting functions.

Professionals in other departments work closely with the IPC team, particularly pharmacists and medical microbiologists. Both play important roles in assisting the infection prevention and control team with managing antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) initiatives. The pharmacist reports on antimicrobial use and trends and tracks bug/drug mismatches.

The microbiology team is responsible for culture work-up and susceptibility profiling. The team assists with development of an antibiogram.

Are there other individuals who play important roles in your infection prevention and control team? Tell us how your team is structured in the comments below.

Implementation of Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy Programs in a Health System

Topics: Infection Prevention

About the Author

Cathy Thompson, MBA Cathy is a Biomedical Engineer with an MBA by education and has spent the majority of her career in the healthcare industry marketing both medical devices and IT applications.