Impact of infectious exposures and outbreaks on nurse and infection preventionist workload

Published:April 10, 2019DOI:


      • Outbreak and exposure response creates a substantial workload for nurses and IPs.
      • Interprofessional perceptions of workload vary by organism and outbreak.
      • Quantifying burden may inform all stakeholders to respond more effectively.


      Staff nurse and infection preventionist (IP) workload increases in response to exposures and outbreaks. Understanding the time burden associated with responding to specific pathogens may improve resource allocation. The purpose of this study was to evaluate workload increases reported by nurses and IPs in response to common exposures and outbreaks.


      Surveys were distributed to nurses in a New York hospital network and to IPs who attended the 2018 Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology annual conference or to IPs who were members of local Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology chapters. Respondents were asked to rate their daily workload increase and to rank their most time-consuming activities in response to exposure and outbreak scenarios.


      A total of 150 nurses and 228 IPs responded. Among the nurses, >60-minute workload increases were reported for Clostridium difficile (76%), lice or scabies (46%), and influenza (45%). Among the IPs, >60-minute increases were reported for mumps or measles (66%), tuberculosis (64%), and C difficile (50%). Among the nurses, isolation precautions, patient and family education, and staffing changes were the most frequently reported time-consuming activities. Among the IPs, chart review, exposure list compiling, and preventive measures for exposures were the most frequently reported time-consuming activities.


      Organisms that are easier to treat and more difficult to spread, such as scabies or lice, can contribute substantially to nursing workload. Notably, three-quarters of the nurses and one-half of the IPs reported that C difficile adds >1 hour to their daily workload.

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