Infection Preventionists See Help With Infection Control From Federal Funding

Preventing Infection

International Infection Prevention Week 2021: New Funding to Fuel Innovative Protection Strategies

"The shortage is here. Add in burnout, and that’s creating pressure on the availability of IPs.”

At a time when infection prevention professionals are stretched thinner than ever before, the federal government has stepped in with $500 million to help nursing homes and other long-term care facilities hard hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Those federal allocations are for what the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control are calling “strike teams” to address infection prevention and control.

“It’s great,” Linda Spaulding, RB-BC, CIC and a member of the Infection Control Today editorial advisory board, said in a recent interview with that publication. “Obviously COVID-19 has shown where our infection prevention weaknesses lie, and now the federal government is finally putting its money where its mouth is.”

Indeed, new responsibilities, staffing shortages, and stress have compounded the already high-pressure work that infection preventionists, or IPs, do as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into its second year. That’s why International Infection Prevention Week, which runs from Oct. 17-23 this year, will celebrate the work IPs do each day to keep their patients, hospitals and communities safe with a series of promotional and educational events.

 

 

The strike teams will receive funding from the CDC, in partnership with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), to allow state and other health departments to staff, train and deploy the teams to help in nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities and other long-term care facilities with known outbreaks. They will focus on strengthening infection prevention and control activities to prevent, detect and contain outbreaks when they happen.

That funding is part of $2.1 billion within the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

The global pandemic which started in November 2019, has now claimed nearly 5 million lives around the world, more than 720,000 of them in the U.S. alone.

“This funding will dramatically improve the safety and quality of the healthcare delivered in the United States,” says Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, in a press release. “Funding will provide significant resources to our public health departments and healthcare systems and opportunities to develop innovative strategies to protect every segment of the U.S. population, especially those disproportionately affected by the pandemic, at a time that they are hit hard.”

IPs have stepped into new roles created by the pandemic: ensuring that adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) is available, monitoring surge capacity, updating ever-shifting infection guidance. That’s on top of their usual responsibilities, such as preventing surges in healthcare-associated infections, keeping measles and flu outbreaks at bay, and setting an organization’s hygiene standards.

IPs have also confronted another toll of COVID-19 – the resurgence of some healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), which has eroded years of steady progress made in reducing them. The increase is attributed to more and sicker patients and frequent and prolonged use of ventilators and catheters.

Beyond the evolving challenges of the job itself, infection preventionists are also are in short supply. Among the reasons for the staffing shortages:

  • Many IPs have reached retirement age
  • There is no direct path to become an IP; it typically involves a career change
  • The job is being expanded to additional sectors at the same time demand is rising

"The shortage is here,” Devin Jopp, CEO of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) — which organizes International Infection Prevention Week — told Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare. “Add in burnout, and that’s creating pressure on the availability of IPs.”

One Texas health system recently weighed having retired IPs working remotely to supplement staffing shortages. Recruitment and retention remain a top focus for APIC going forward.

“We must take our lessons learned from COVID-19, remember the terrible costs of this pandemic, and make real and sustainable changes to prevent it from occurring again,” says APIC’s Jopp. “Ensuring we have infection preventionist expertise is one of the critical ingredients to enhance our preparedness.”

Click here to learn more about becoming an IP.

More Infection Prevention Articles
Endoscope-Related Infection: A Look to the Future
Prevention Strategies
Exogenous infections relating to contaminated endoscopes have been historically difficult to quantify. A recent systematic review offers a look at potential solutions to reducing the risk of patient infection from cross-contamination.
PPE in Reprocessing: Vital for Safety and Eliminating Endoscope Contaminants
Prevention Challenges
Endoscope reprocessing involves a complicated series of between 50 and 100 steps depending on the device instructions for use and society guidelines adopted by the institution. Among the dozens of steps needed are several PPE changes to protect the integrity of the cleaning process.
More From Single-Use Endoscopy

Endoscopy Tech

A new system enables urologists to perform various endoscopic procedures with nothing more than a scope and their smartphone.

Challenges in device reprocessing are related to the lack of connection that hospital administrators and the public at large make between the resources given to our teams and the ultimate quality of surgical instruments available for every procedure.

Preventing Infection

Bigger hospitals typically offer more complex services, putting added strain on reprocessing departments — and the quality of reprocessing depends on the resources made available to the teams that do that work.

Experts agree that correct ergonomics is a learned behavior that must be practiced.

Performing Procedures

Otolaryngologists from around the world acknowledge that aches and pains are common in their profession and that they have received little training in proper ergonomics along the way.