The team’s primary role is to prevent infections in patients but there is also an emphasis on protecting health care workers and hospital visitors, said Scott Brown, UF Health Shands Hospital Infection Control director.
To do that, they probe and question much like a good detective: Were the positive results related to a central line or perhaps a urinary catheter? Did a cluster of patients in a unit have the same organism? Did they share a room? Had the same workers gone through the rooms? The infection control practitioners then help health care teams, either at the unit level or hospital wide, determine how to wipe out the microorganism.
They focus on the affected area and work with the staff, managers, Environmental Services workers and other employees to formulate a plan and make sure everyone follows protocol. The solution could be as simple as cleaning with bleach or as meticulous as screening all the patients from a unit.
Their job is highly detailed and operates on a massive scale. In 2015, the department reviewed about 56,000 microbiology lab results, reported nearly 3,000 notifiable disease cases to health agencies and spent approximately 13,000 hours analyzing digital data.
The team of three hospital epidemiologists and six infection control practitioners works with every unit in UF Health Shands Hospital as well as outpatient services. Each practitioner comes from a different specialty, such as microbiology, nursing and public health, and is assigned to his or her own group of units.
Pat Nelson, an Infection Control practitioner, addresses issues involving bone marrow transplant, orthopaedics and the UF Health Shands Burn Center.
She said,“Being able to find out an answer to something perplexing is very satisfying.”