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Think Outside the Plastic Barriers: Expanding the Role of Infection Prevention with a Focus on Construction and Facility Collaboration

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      Background

      The expected growth in the health care construction market presents unique challenges for short staffed infection prevention departments. Detailed, proactive infection control risk assessments for both new construction and infrastructure remediation projects are often overlooked or rushed when the Infection Preventionist's (IP) time is allocated to other responsibilities. Establishing strong relationships with the Facilities Department, Environmental Services and outside Contractors takes considerable IP time and knowledge. An Infection Prevention department in a large academic pediatric hospital looked for a solution to ensure IP involvement and understanding of construction and facility issues that may put patients at risk.

      Methods

      A full time IP position focusing on construction and facilities work was proposed to address a surge in construction activities and ongoing facilities projects requiring IP involvement. The goal was to provide consistent, standardized approaches to project management and build relationships with project managers and key leaders in Facilities. The IP visited all construction and facilities projects weekly to ask questions and learn about facility work standards and processes, while establishing relationships with the staff.

      Results

      The IP helped fill the gap between IP's and key leaders in project management and the Facilities Department. Education modules were implemented for all contracted staff performing work in the facility. The IP established a tracking system for observations on all construction projects. Quarterly in-services are held to educate the Facilities staff regarding the impact of their work on patient safety. Regular meetings are held with key Facility leaders. Ongoing documentation of information pertaining to water intrusions and air handler work has been valuable during investigation of possible healthcare associated infections.

      Conclusions

      This specialized IP role has provided much needed guidance and support to the Facilities Department and Contractors on site. This collaboration has helped ensure an emphasis on patient safety and infection prevention.
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