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Staffing requirements for infection control programs in US health care facilities: Delphi project

      Abstract

      Background: The guideline for staffing infection control programs of 1 infection control professional (ICP) for every 250 occupied acute care beds has been used in many health care facilities in the United States since 1985. Since that time, the health care system, patient populations, and expectations about the work of infection prevention and control programs have changed substantially. Methods: The Delphi method was used; data were obtained from a group of ICPs through a series of 10 surveys. Through this iterative process, participant responses were progressively synthesized and areas of agreement and disagreement identified. These surveys were conducted by electronic and paper mail to identify the personal ICP characteristics and structural variables associated with performance of activities required for contemporary infection prevention and control programs in a variety of health care settings. Results: Delphi panel members (n = 32) from 20 states and who represented acute care, long-term care, and community care settings reported tasks in addition to those identified in earlier task analyses as well as expanded responsibilities. Competing responsibilities and lack of adequate resources were the most frequently cited reasons for nonperformance of essential infection control tasks. A ratio of 0.8 to 1.0 ICP for every 100 occupied acute care beds was suggested as adequate staffing by the Delphi panel. Conclusions: Infection control responsibilities have expanded beyond the traditional acute care setting. Recommendations for staffing must not only consider the number of occupied beds (average daily census) but also include the scope of the program, the complexity of the health care facility or system, the characteristics of the patient population, and the unique or urgent needs of the facility and community. (Am J Infect Control 2002;30:321-33.)
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