Infection control training, support needed, researchers say

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Long-term care facilities continue to face a lack of resources, including qualified staff, to implement sufficient infection control programs at a time when almost 400,000 residents die annually as a result of healthcare-associated infections, according to research being presented today at the 44th Annual Conference of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology in Portland, OR.

Public health professionals from Washington state and the Tennessee Department of Health assessed a sample of LTC facilities to determine their infection-prevention proficiency using a tool developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for assisted living communities, nursing homes, intermediate care facilities and other types of LTC facilities.

Of the 43 assessments performed in the two states, researchers found that many infection control officers had little to no formal training and lacked foundational skills for proper infection prevention. Researchers also discovered high turnover rates, with facilities challenged in retaining consistent, qualified workers to manage their infection control programs.

Some of the assessments in Washington occurred in assisted living communities, although most of them focused on nursing homes, where “the level of care is quite different,” Dorothy MacEachern, MS, MPH, CIC, infection preventionist with the Spokane Regional Health District, a researcher on the Washington state study, and one of the presenters at the APIC meeting, told McKnight's Senior Living. She added, however: “Certainly, many of the practices, such as hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, environmental cleaning and antibiotic stewardship, are very important in those [assisted living] settings as well.”

And in assisted living, MacEachern said, “resources devoted to infection control may be even more limited” than they are in nursing homes.

“Our analysis identified clear gaps in infection prevention practices and the urgent need to improve infection control infrastructure in long-term care facilities,” she said. “Future efforts should be directed at providing training, ongoing education and support for infection preventionists in these settings.”

People who have multiple chronic diseases, spend time in the hospital or are overexposed to antibiotics are at higher risk for developing infections with antibiotic-resistant organisms, said Linda Greene, RN, MPS, CIC, FAPIC, 2017 APIC president.

The CDC has posted information about HAIs in assisted living communities and nursing homes online on its website.

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