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‘Germ Detectives’ Back at it Again

Posted on October 20, 2020 in Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Fort Sanders Regional Infection Preventionists Provide Insight During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Patricia Jeffers and Kim MurrayLast year, we introduced you to our Fort Sanders Regional “germ detectives” Kim Murray and Patricia Jeffers. This year, we follow our infection prevention P.I.s on another investigation into the bugs bringing down your health.

Kim and Patricia aren’t really private investigators, but they are infection preventionists at Fort Sanders Regional. Both are registered nurses who specialize in preventing infections and tracking infectious diseases wherever bacteria, viruses and other nasty bugs may hide.

This year has kept this pair and the entire infection prevention team at Fort Sanders Regional busy thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Infection prevention may be more prevalent in the public mind because of the pandemic, but it has always been a top priority in the hospital environment.

As a member of Covenant Health, Fort Sanders Regional is committed to patient safety, which includes preventing hospital-acquired infections. Infection prevention initiatives include hand washing, employee education related to safety and infection control, sharing best practices with other Covenant Health member organizations, and tracking improvements in performance.

Because of these and other initiatives, Covenant Health hospitals consistently exceed national standards in preventing hospital-acquired infections. In addition, a system-wide antibiotic stewardship program focuses on appropriate use of specific medications to lower the risk of antibiotic resistance, a growing worldwide concern.

In observance of International Infection Prevention Week Oct. 18-24, Kim and Patricia discuss the importance of infection prevention, particularly regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: What is the main message you want to communicate during this year’s International Infection Prevention Week?

A: As children we are taught that we should share with others, but GERMS are not to be shared. Hand hygiene is the first and foremost preventative measure to stop the spread of communicable diseases. Infection prevention is key to promoting a safe and healthy environment for you, your loved ones and your community.

Q: How important is your role in infection prevention when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: Infection prevention within a healthcare setting has always been an important safety issue for our patients and staff. At Fort Sanders Regional, everyone is empowered to prevent infections caused by IVs or bladder catheters with patients’ care bundles and to follow proven safety protocols to protect our patients.

The COVID-19 virus poses a different challenge, one that we can’t prevent by our excellent patient care. Instead we must mitigate the spread of the disease by monitoring incoming patients and following through with isolation and proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), advocating for staff and patients, and interpreting and communicating the constant changes related to COVID-19 precautions and interventions. 

Q: How has your role in preventing infections in a hospital setting shifted due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: The pandemic has involved an immense increase in surveillance, reporting and communication on all levels, from within our hospital and Covenant Health to the Knox County and Tennessee State Health Departments and U.S. agencies such as Health and Human Services. Also, the interpretation and dissemination of information coming from the Center for Disease Control, the state of Tennessee and local health departments has been a challenge.

Q: What are steps people can take to protect themselves from COVID-19 and the flu as we enter the flu season during a global pandemic?

A: Because both of these diseases are spread by droplets when an infected person is in close contact (within 6 feet) of others, we recommend the basics:

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with tissue or into your elbow, not your hands.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Wearing a mask is recommended or required in some places. This practice is critical in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and flu.
  • Stay home and quarantine if you are not feeling well.