Hand in Hand

Back in January 2014, as I started my tenure as APIC DFW President, I introduced my theme for the year which was “Hand in Hand.” I chose this theme not only because hand hygiene is in integral part of the IP’s message, but also because hands symbolize industry, hard work, perseverance, caring, and healing.  These are all qualities inherent to those who choose our field, and joining these hands together creates a force to be reckoned with!  Hand in hand, we support each other and work together for a noble purpose.

 

Nowhere have I felt this sense of being a part of something bigger than myself more than when I attended the recent national conference in Anaheim.  It was inspirational and overwhelming!  Over 4000 people from around the world gathered together in one place to share the challenges and successes of working toward a common vision, “healthcare without infection”.

 

We were privileged to hear from some dynamic speakers.  Jennifer Gardy from the British Columbia Centers for Disease Control talked about new advances in whole genome sequencing which can help us understand transmission patterns in outbreaks.  Gregory Poland from the Mayo Clinic talked about how we all make predictable errors in decision-making and how this can inhibit healthcare improvements. 

 

One of my favorite speakers was a small concurrent session with Shaheen Mehtar from the Infection Control African Network.  In talking about their knowledge transfer programs, she described challenges in IP in low income countries such as HCWs dying during Ebola outbreaks or having to make your own PPE with plastic bags!  She made the profound statement that teaching others is the best way to retain learning ourselves. 

 

We also heard from national APIC leaders about the state of our parent organization.  APIC is fiscally strong and, at the end of 2013, had over 15,000 members.  The organization has various strategic goals including competency, certification, and implementation science.  APIC is involved with various AHRQ projects in acute care, ambulatory surgery, and long-term care.  The fourth edition of the APIC Text has been published.  APIC has formed APIC Consulting Services Inc.  Later this year, a “mega” member survey will be rolled out to assess IP staffing ratios and compensation.  So many exciting things!

 

Our organization will continue to face challenges in the coming years due to increased scrutiny and changes to healthcare as a whole.  Also, as approximately 5% of the membership is projected to retire in the next 5 years, we will need to start preparing now by recruiting new IPs.  

 

I am grateful to APIC DFW for providing me with the opportunity to attend the national conference for the first time.  The experience reaffirmed for me the sense of community and purpose that drew me to the field and to APIC DFW in the very beginning.

 

Anju Varghese

2014 APIC DFW President 

 

Falling into APIC

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Watching the opening Plenary Session, “Infection Prevention through the Decades”, was an amazing way to re-experience the evolution of APIC and infection prevention from the mouths of whom built it.  A much recurrent theme from the “Dynamic Dozen”, as the twelve Key Note speakers were called, was how many of them “fell into” the profession of infection control and prevention.  I find this so interesting since most of these speakers, and many of the people I know from APIC, come from such diverse backgrounds.  For example, Dr. Dennis Maki, one of the infamous twelve, was drafted during the Vietnam War in the middle of his medical training to work for the CDC as an EIS officer to investigate a hospital outbreak; and the rest is history.  APIC attendees included everyone from nurses and epidemiologists to business owners and lawyers.  I feel this really illustrates the long reaching fingers of infection prevention and how easy it is to get caught in its grasp.   

Another way this was illustrated was through the breadth of knowledge covered during the conference itself.  I personally attended talks on statistics, the knowledge of “consumers” of HAI rates of their hospitals, implementation science, regulatory definitions and policies, hospital outbreaks, pharmaceutical, current and upcoming research pertaining to IP, epidemiology, and—my favorite by far—discussing the weird goings-on that seem to occur in the name of infection prevention and control.  Other topics that were discussed were hand hygiene (I avoided these talks on purpose), sterilization and disinfection, education, technology; the list goes on and on.

Although I do not feel that I have “fallen into” infection prevention; I definitely feel that my graduate school training did not prepare me well for the range of responsibilities an infection preventionist has—including starting the conga line at the closing ceremonies, Pat and Mary.  However, now that I think of it, I don’t believe that the University of Michigan would find it appropriate to name a graduate degree course, “Really? They're doing what?? How to approach unusual events in infection prevention”.  But hey, that is what conferences are for, right? 

 

Lauren Cooper, MPH

Methodist Charlton Medical Center

Recipient of the APIC-National Conference Scholarship