Naval Hospital Bremerton, Washington –
Inflections on Infection Prevention at Naval Hospital Bremerton
By Douglas H Stutz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton public affairs officer -- For Elma Faye Miller, infection prevention and control nurse at Naval Hospital Bremerton, recognizing Oct. 16-22, 2022, as International Infection Prevention Week, is a great reminder of the importance attached to the awareness campaign.
One that is applicable for all 52 weeks in the year.
“Knowing the best practices in infection prevention and control helps to stop the spread of infections in healthcare settings. This week is dedicated to raising awareness for these practices for our patients, families and staff. After all, our mission is to, “keep our warfighters and their families ready, healthy, and on the job.” Infection Control is key to making sure we can meet our mission,” said Miller, who took the entire week to share a host of planned information, insight, and education activities on all things infection prevention.
There was a Seek-and-Find visual event where hospital staff, as well as Navy Medicine Readiness Training Units Bangor and Everett and Navy Medicine Readiness Training Command Bremerton Detachment Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, were invited into a specifically arranged room to seek out errors in infection control. The command quarterdeck was taken over by Infection Prevention and Control tri-fold display featuring timely topics concerning infection control. Staff were also asked to test their knowledge on pathogens with a candy-filled jar. Each candy represented a potential disease-causing organism. Guess the correct number, the jar was the prize. There is an ‘enlightening’ exercise which featured glo-germ hand hygiene education. There was also a test-your-knowledge quiz posited each day.
“My hope for Infection Prevention Week is to help create a culture of safety among all members of our team by sharing knowledge, encouraging conversation, prompting thought, and by providing an opening for improvements in all areas of our command,” exclaimed Miller, adding that one of the biggest take-away notions which staff should remember is that infection control is quite literally in their hands.
Referring to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Miller noted that if done properly and at the appropriate time, “hand hygiene has been shown to ‘terminate outbreaks in health care facilities, reduce transmission of resistant organisms, and reduce overall infection rates,’” she said.
Antimicrobial Stewardship has been another topic du jour which Miller has addressed during the week.
“Being a mother of five, I have taken my sick babies to the primary care provider, Urgent Care and Emergency Room on several occasions. I was always under the impression if my child had a cold, runny nose, cough or other flu like symptoms that they needed an antibiotic. I even demanded it at times. I was misinformed. The use of those antibiotics may have contributed to our increasing rate of antibiotic resistance. Through education offered to those worried parents, patients, and medical professionals we can start to improve antibiotic prescribing and hold onto the effective use of antibiotics for years to come,” Miller advocated.
The importance of infection prevention and control also goes well beyond any treatment setting of a hospital, clinic or doctor’s office. Miller affirms that if the past two years trying to stop a high-infectious pandemic have provided any clue, it’s that contagions are found throughout the world.
“Infection Prevention is critical on a global spectrum, as we all know better than we ever thought possible. COVID-19 showed us just how easy and how deadly poor infection control practices can be. Healthcare workers are also only as effective as the education they provide to the patients who walk out of our facility and into the world at large. Keep up the excellent care,” said Miller.
If there is one takeaway from the entire week that Miller cites can be applied on a yearly-basis it’s an easy process which everyone can apply daily, especially in a healthcare/medical treatment setting.
“Wash your hands! It is the simplest step. When in doubt, perform hand hygiene. Hand hygiene is expected before putting on gloves, after removal of gloves, after touching anything in a patient environment, and please, please, please, perform hand hygiene if you touch yourself anywhere - face, mask, hair, or other - prior to heading in to care for a patient,” insisted Miller, including that even as simplistic as handwashing is, there can be the occasional faux pas in the process.
“When someone uses hand sanitizer, make sure to hands are rubbed together covering all surfaces until completely dry,” Miller continued. “When using a water faucet with handles, please make sure to use a disposable paper towel to turn on the flow of water.”
As the week winds up, the need to stop the unrelenting spread of infection continues.
“Infection prevention is everyone’s responsibility,” said Miller. “If you see something, say something. It is a team effort.”