Any infection control program is designed to eliminate the risk of illness due to exposure to unwanted infectious agents.
Several components make up an infection control program, including:
- Developing an infection control plan. The plan becomes the guide that helps to answer some basic questions: Who, what, when, where, how and why for the program.
- Identify infection control risk factors.
- Develop policies and procedures to address infection control risk factors. Hand hygiene is a policy that must be included.
- Educate personnel regarding their role(s) and responsibilities.
- Establish benchmarks that help qualify the stated goals.
- Perform regular infection control program evaluations and oversight.
- Implement program changes as needed to meet the infection control goal.
Building A Basis
The infection control plan becomes the basis for all other infection control activities.
Why is the plan needed?
The plan addresses several points:
- Who is being protected by the plan?
- Who will implement the plan?
- What procedures are needed in the plan?
- How will the procedures be performed?
- How will the procedures be evaluated?
- What parameters will define the plan’s success?
- What events will signal the plan’s shortcomings?
Once the plan is in place, the specifics will come into focus.
Infection control risk factors must be identified.
- How or why do the risk factors exist?
- Can these risk factors be eliminated or reduced?
- What are the consequences of ignoring the risk factors?
Identifying the risk factors helps to target potential areas of exposure.
Reducing Risk Factors
Developing policies and procedures helps begin the process of eliminating or reducing exposure due to risk factors.
- How will the procedures or policies affect the risk factors?
- Can cleaning or disinfection efforts eliminate or reduce the risk factors?
The policies employed must have a demonstrative effect on the targeted risk factors.
Who will perform the tasks outlined in the policies or procedures?
Most front-line staff are given the enormous responsibility of safeguarding a facility’s employees, visitors, residents or clients.
It is imperative that employee training be given the highest priority.
Employees need to know what role(s) they play in the infection control program.
They must understand the importance of working correctly at all times.
Benchmarks help to give the employees some idea of the effectiveness of their efforts.
A benchmark becomes feedback that encourages employees and helps them recognize their value in the program.
Inspections and visual checks help employees understand their contributions to the program.
Infection control program evaluations are generally the responsibility of managers, nurses, physicians and any qualified and experienced personnel.
There are specific qualifications, including education and levels of work experience an individual must attain before being allowed to oversee an infection control program.
The professional charged with running the program must be able to identify potential trouble spots or negative trends.
If the program is deemed successful, efforts must be made to keep the components relevant.
Areas where the program has challenges must be addressed.
The program should result in some reduction or elimination of risk factors.
Yet, no infection control program is absolute.
Situations may arise that cannot be anticipated.
The program must be flexible enough to address current, as well as newly identified, risk factors.
Desired results may not always occur.
Whatever the challenge, the program must be designed to meet changing goals.
In this respect, infection control is an ongoing process.
Infection control does not have to be complicated or frightening.
With the proper education, follow-up and promotion, infection control can be as simple as washing your hands.