Patient Engagement in Infection Prevention

Posted on by Lori Nerbonne, BSN, RN and Marie Moss, MPH, RN, BSN, CIC, CPHQ, FAPIC

This blog is a part of a series that CDC launched to highlight the importance of patient safety by providing educational information and simple ways to help people stay informed on public safety topics. Read the blog below, authored by Lori Nerbonne and Marie K. Moss, to learn more about the importance of patient engagement in infection prevention.

Grandmother with two of her grandchildren
Lori Nerbonne’s mom, Dorothy Fortune Etheridge with grandchildren Jack Grasso (left) and Lindsey Nerbonne (right)

In 2004, my life changed dramatically when my mom was admitted to a hospital for lung surgery. On the third day after her surgery, my sisters and I noticed she appeared confused, had a glazed stare, and was so weak that she couldn’t hold her cup of water or open an envelope. Over several hours, our repeated concerns were reasoned by hospital staff as reactions to her pain medication. But soon after, she was rushed to the intensive care unit (ICU) in septic shock.

What should have been a five-day hospital stay turned into an eight-month recovery from sepsis. Following a hospital readmission for pneumonia, our mom passed away from a brain bleed due to a medication overdose in the ICU.

In 2005, while testifying to support a hospital infection reporting law, I quickly realized my sister and I were some of the only voices speaking up for patients in a very crowded room. At that time, I was a maternal and child health nurse and educator, and I had never been inside a legislative testimony room. Since that fateful day, my focus has been on working to improve patient safety; advocating for patients and for high quality, compassionate care; and elevating the voice of patients and families. Our small organization, New England Patient Voices, has been committed to this cause since 2005.

What is patient engagement?

“Patient engagement,” despite its value and necessity in patient safety, does not have a universally accepted definition. However, there are practical ways that patients and families can be more involved in their care. Some examples of patient engagement include speaking up about your concerns and having an open discussion with your provider to build mutual trust.

For awareness on how hospitals are engaging patients in infection prevention, I reached out to a knowledgeable, and helpful, yet little-known, resource that every hospital has: an Infection Preventionist (IP). Marie K. Moss, MPH, RN, BSN, CIC, CPHQ, FAPIC is an IP and the Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York City.

Marie shared these tips and tools for patients and families:

  • Discuss with your surgeon to learn more about the pre-operative classes offered by your hospital and whether or not you will need laboratory or nasal swab testing to determine if you may be a carrier of certain types of bacteria like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which may increase the risk of infection after surgery.
  • Speak up if you have questions. Your nurse and the hospital’s Infection Prevention and Control Department are great resources.
  • Be assertive about asking hospital staff and visitors to wash their hands before they touch you or any surfaces around you, even if they are wearing gloves. You can use words like, “I realize you may have already washed your hands before you came in my room, but I would feel safer and less anxious if you washed them here in front of me.”
  • If you have an intravenous line, bladder, or other catheters or tubing, ask when they can come out.
  • Locate and read your hospital admission packet or ask someone to share with you the important department phone contacts, a list of patients’ rights, and the phone number for the patient advocate.
  • Determine if your hospital has Rapid Response Teams (RRTs). If you or your family member feel you are getting much sicker and your concerns are not being addressed, an RRT is a specially trained emergency care team that will evaluate you and determine a plan of prompt action, when needed.

Use the resources below to learn how you can be a safe patient:

Lori Nerbonne, BSN, RN is co-founder of New England Patient Voices. She has worked at the state, regional and national levels representing the patient-family perspective in patient safety work groups and committees. Through 2018, she was a hospital nurse patient advocate and quality improvement coordinator. She currently serves on the leadership committee for the Patient Safety Action Network. 

Marie K. Moss, MPH, RN, BSN, CIC, CPHQ, FAPIC is an IP and the Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York City.

Posted on by Lori Nerbonne, BSN, RN and Marie Moss, MPH, RN, BSN, CIC, CPHQ, FAPICTags , , ,

5 comments on “Patient Engagement in Infection Prevention”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    Hey I acquired a lot from this blog post about patient engagement. I appreciated how you outlined each important principle. I wrote a piece that was similar to this one after I had finished my research for the mHealth guidebook and had described the difficulty of patient ownership. I’d really appreciate it if you could take a quick peek at it and let me know what you think.

    What are some potential challenges to patient engagement in infection prevention?

    Research suggests that people who have higher knowledge, skills, and confidence to become actively engaged in their health care have better health outcomes. People with health literacy skills may be more likely to participate in decision-making to ensure they receive the treatment they feel best meets their needs. Addressing health literacy among patients may be helpful in increasing patient engagement.

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Page last reviewed: April 24, 2024
Page last updated: April 24, 2024