Just how important is infection prevention and control?

hand hygiene

October 17-21 is National Infection Prevention and Control Week. To mark the occasion, we decided to learn more about what exactly infection prevention and control is, and how important it is in a hospital environment. We asked Natasha Salt, Interim Director, Infection Prevention and Control at Sunnybrook, to answer a few questions below:

What does an infection control professional do, and who are they?

We are dedicated to preventing and controlling the transmission of healthcare associated infections to patients, clients, residents, healthcare workers, visitors and others.

Our team is made up of diverse individuals with backgrounds ranging from nursing, epidemiology, public health, health sciences, physicians and microbiology laboratory technologists who are Certified Infection Control practitioners. We are part of your healthcare team and work diligently to prevent health-care associated infections.

What does infection prevention and control look like at Sunnybrook?

At Sunnybrook, Infection Prevention and Control is responsible for administering programming for our Hospital, Long-Term Care and Rehabilitation facilities. We promote best practices in infection control to ensure the safety of our patients/clients/residents, visitors and staff.

Preventing healthcare associated infections is a high priority, and we work alongside healthcare teams to ensure all measures are taken to reduce infections and prevent transmission. Our staff members are actively involved in providing information to healthcare workers, patients and visitors on how to reduce the risk of infections through education, audits, surveillance, posters, pamphlets and other tools.

Why is infection prevention and control so important in a hospital environment?

Healthcare-acquired infections are one of the most common complications of health care. They are a significant patient safety issue, and can also be an Occupational Health and Safety issue. A well-functioning Infection Prevention and Control program helps minimize these risks for our patients, residents, visitors and our staff.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Infection prevention and control has multiple roles within an organization and is embedded in all areas. A sample of the work we do includes: providing education to patients and staff members, investigations of infections or outbreaks, prevention of infections through activities such as monitoring hand hygiene or auditing practices, construction planning for new buildings or renovation of existing spaces and research. The diversity of the role keeps the job very interesting and gives us a wide-ranging skill set.

What is a common misconception that people have about infection prevention and control?

People believe that gloves alone can prevent the transmission of infection, but they are not an appropriate substitute for proper hand hygiene using alcohol-based hand antiseptics or soap and water. Gloves provide a barrier during contact with a patient but they cannot, by themselves, prevent the transmission of organisms that can cause an infection. Proper hand washing/antisepsis is the only way to prevent the transmission of organisms, and this needs to be done before and after using gloves.

About the author

Sybil Millar

Sybil Millar

Sybil Millar is the Communications Advisor for Infection Prevention and Control, Infectious Diseases, the Ross Tilley Burn Centre and the Critical Care program at Sunnybrook.

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