The CDC has asked for infection prevention coordinators in all offices
By Noel Kelsch, RDHAP, MS
I walked through the door; harsh words were being exchanged. It was apparent there was no one in charge and it was reflecting in infection control. A tall woman repeatedly pointed her finger in the face of a staff member and blamed her for the plight of the day. I will never forget the reply from the young woman. "Yes it is my fault, I take full responsibility. If we all take full responsibility, this will never happen again." What a wonderful attitude and way of conducting safety measures to protect both the patient and the staff.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has asked all offices to put someone in charge. In the new summary document from CDC, a great guide has been given on the role of that staff member and the necessary skills that person must possess.1
As we all know, infection control is the cornerstone to any successful office. If you are not complying with infection control measures you may be doing more harm than good. This has to be a priority in all offices. It is essential that at least one infection prevention coordinator (IPC) is present in their office. This can be a person whose job is dedicated to IPC or devotes a portion of their job to the duty depending on the size of the office (see page six of the summary).
Training: This person has to have infection control training and be knowledgeable on the subject. There are several resources for getting that training. Some of my recommendations to stay up to date and train the IPC are:
- Join the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (osap.org). They have bi-annual meeting,s and their website is chock full of training and information to stay in compliance. They are so inexpensive! Every office should take advantage of their great resources. One of their greatest assets is daily updates on news, information, policies, and practices.
- Check out the CDC Guidelines & Recommendations web page. There is everything from slide presentations to frequently asked questions on this site. Watch the videos, download, and use their PowerPoint presentations for staff training staff.
- Go to your state governing agencies website and download the infection control regulations.
- Attend an infection control courses. Find someone who is focused on sharing the guidelines and regulations, and not opinions or products. Make sure they are a qualified speaker. You will find a new gem of information each time you attend.
- Read the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards (osha.gov).
Responsibilities: IPC are responsible for developing written infection prevention policies and procedures based on evidence-based guidelines, regulations, or standards. The job does not end there and is constantly changing. They have to stay up to date on regulations and requirements, policies and procedures, and incorporate them into the program. They have to make sure everyone is adhering to state and federal requirements, and then assess best practices. Time will have to be set aside during the working day to allow IPC time to do these tasks on the clock. Use of Infection Prevention Checklist for Dental Settings (cdc.gov) from the CDC can help make this job easier to perform.
A few of the tasks that need to be performed are:
- Training: All new staff need to be trained; yearly OSHA blood borne pathogen training, on-going training as needed
- Management: programs must be overseen and IPC have developed written infection control policies and procedures
- Equipment: Equipment should be in working order, all personnel trained to instructions for use, safety requirements adhered to
- Supplies: Necessary supplies readily available, including personal protective equipment for both staff and patients (e.g. ANSI approved eye-protection)
Considerations: Each office needs to be looked at individually. There are so many different factors that have to be incorporated into this program. You have to look at the tasks that are performed in your office, the population you are serving, OSHA bloodborne pathogens standard, as well as all the factors that go into protecting the patient.
A large part of this job will be looking at the tasks we undertake and making certain that the supplies and equipment are readily available, in working order, being used in the manner the instructions requires, working properly, and disposed of within the law. This can include everything from your sterilizer to masks.
The IPC is responsible for making sure all staff members are compliant and for observing and training the team for future compliance. They need to be available and have great communication with all staff members to address any concerns or issues that arise day to day. A key factor in the prevention of any disease is early detection and management of potentially infectious diseases. The IPC will be in charge of training all staff at recognizing the signs and symptoms of disease at the initial points of patient contact.
On-going training for the entire office will be key to this program and the duties of the IPC. The basics include principles and practices, including patient safety, and need to be reviewed regularly. New employees must be provided training during orientation. The yearly OSHA requirement for blood borne pathogen training is especially important. For example, if a new EPA approved hospital grade disinfectant is introduced to clean and disinfect clinical contract surfaces all staff would need to be trained with the instructions for use. Records of training must be maintained.
I keep thinking about what that young woman had to say, "If we all take full responsibility, this will never happen again." All dental healthcare professionals need to take full responsibility, and the first step should be assigning someone the role of IPC. RDH
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Summary of Infection Prevention Practices in Dental Settings: Basic Expectations for Safe Care. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Oral Health; March 2016.
NOEL BRANDON KELSCH, RDHAP, MS, is a syndicated columnist, writer, speaker, and cartoonist. She serves on the editorial review committee for the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention newsletter and has received many national awards. Kelsch owns her dental hygiene practice that focuses on access to care for all and helps facilitate the Simi Valley Free Dental Clinic. She has devoted much of her 35 years in dentistry to educating people about the devastating effects of methamphetamines and drug use. She is a past president of the California Dental Hygienists' Association.