Clean Slate

Hospitals are reducing infection rates with successful initiatives like hand washing, communication and culture change

Advance for Nurses—February 1, 2010

Eileen Finerty, MS, FNP, RN, CIC, nursing director for infection control and occupational health services at the Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY, is proud her facility has one of the lowest infection rates of any hospital in the U.S.
The hospital recently earned a commendation from the New York State Department of Health for its low infection rate in patients who come in for total hip replacements.

"Infection prevention is not an easy process; rather, it's a continuous one for us," she explained. "I came here 10 years ago and have been building the program ever since, but the foundation was well-established when I got here."

Culture of Prevention

Finerty said she appreciates the support she receives from top management.

"Infection prevention is a priority," she noted. "Physicians are the big drivers for infection prevention in the OR and after surgical procedures, but it's the nurses who pull it all together.

"Infection prevention isn't just an annual in-service - it's part of our culture. I provide nurses with ongoing feedback in the form of data and case studies so they have a bird's eye view of what happens when a patient does get an infection."

Acknowledging infection prevention is a hot topic in healthcare today, Finerty noted eight of the initiatives on her hospital's quality dashboard represent infection-related topics.

"Infection prevention has to be part of how we care for our patients every single day, not just a bundle or program we implement and then abandon," she emphasized. "There are a lot of opportunities for nurses at the bedside to explain issues to patients, look at what's happening following a surgical procedure, and work with infection preventionists on their unit."

From OR to Med/Surg

As a top-ranked hospital for orthopedics and rheumatology, the Hospital for Special Surgery has an active operating room with a plethora of surgical procedures going on at any given time.

"We've dedicated a full-time position to an experienced perioperative nurse who works in the OR, and her expertise lets us know exactly how perioperative practice works," Finerty said. "She understands quality standards and can identify any issues we need to address.

"That position allows us to continue strengthening our infection prevention program in the OR."

Finerty and her colleagues also support standard infection-prevention measures such as hand hygiene, good ventilation in the OR, and cleaning and disinfection of equipment.

Patients who do develop a contagious infection are placed in a private room as an added precaution.

Read the full story at advanceweb.com.

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