The Faces of Zero InfectionsPosted on by
Guest author: Susan A. Dolan, RN, MS, CIC, FAPIC,
2016 President of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC)
October 16-22 is International Infection Prevention Week and this year’s theme is “Breaking the Chain of Infection.” As an infection preventionist (IP), my job is to ensure that we do everything possible to break that chain of infection. The aspirational goal is healthcare without infection. Zero infections. But, there are some days when I leave my workplace and wonder, “Did I make a difference today? Did I really prevent any infections?” IPs naturally focus on the healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) we weren’t able to prevent. But perhaps we don’t always stop to really appreciate what zero infections looks like in our daily world. Who are the people for whom we have prevented infections?
The answer to this question became very personal for me this past year. My husband Tom was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and had a 10-hour tumor removal and spine surgery with lots of complicated hardware, an ICU stay in a room previously occupied for months by a patient with CRE, mechanical ventilation, numerous catheters, radiation treatments, months of chemotherapy, too many procedures to count, a triple lumen central line, all culminating in a bone marrow transplant this past February—during the middle of respiratory season and a norovirus outbreak in the staff. As if the fear of losing a loved one is not enough, as an experienced IP, I could not help but be gut-wrenchingly consumed with the worry of Tom contracting an HAI and/or a community-acquired infection or being the recipient of a costly medication error. The glass felt more than half empty at times. Each minute of each day during this journey, I was his advocate, and during this time, I saw various safety and infection prevention bundles and practices being implemented in Tom’s care. Some perfectly and some not so much. Despite this, I began to see a glass that was more than half full, as evidenced by the state-of-the-art treatments and care he was receiving. I was now at the bedside—a place somewhat isolated from our usual daily work—where I could observe, discuss, and intervene in real time, as needed. With each passing day, as the germs were kept at bay, the glass became more and more full. Infection prevention does work! I am happy to report that during this journey, Tom developed no infections.
While we are most thankful for zero and hopeful for the future, it’s even clearer to me that we need to continue plugging away to improve compliance and elevate the science so we can see more faces of zero. Tom and the all of the other faces of zero are living proof that infection prevention can and does work. Visit www.apic.org/infectionpreventionandyou and join our Twitter chat on Monday, October 17 at 2 p.m. ET (#IIPWChat) to learn how you can “Break the Chain of Infection.” Together, we can populate this world with more faces of zero—more faces like Tom’s.
Susan A. Dolan, RN, MS, CIC, FAPIC, hospital epidemiologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, is 2016 president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). Ms. Dolan has contributed to advocacy, clinical practice, education, and research in the field of infection prevention for more than 20 years.