Time for a training update?

June 1, 2006
Is it time for an infection-control training update? It’s been 15 years since the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard was finalized and we began our journey toward compliance.

Is it time for an infection-control training update? It’s been 15 years since the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard was finalized and we began our journey toward compliance. There have been many challenges along the way, one of which is sustaining the motivation to remain in compliance and not slip back into old habits or take safety precautions for granted. One of the most important requirements of the standard is infection-control training. But mention training to a group of dental professionals who’ve been through many a training session, and the typical response is, “Do we really have to do this again?” The answer is yes, and for several very important reasons. One reason, of course, is that OSHA requires it. Also, many state dental boards require infection-control training updates. Be sure you know what your state requirements are, if any.

Although an OSHA inspection is unlikely, records of safety training are typically the first thing requested for review during an inspection. If training has not been provided and documentation is not up-to-date, significant fines can be imposed on the employer. A more important reason to participate in annual training updates is that we do tend to forget things and can always benefit from a refresher course or a reminder about safety protocols. There are usually new products to learn about as well as updates to standards and guidelines.

OSHA does not specify the format for the training, only that it must be conducted by someone who is knowledgeable about the topic. The infection-control update training can be presented to a practice by the OSHA manager or another team member who has some additional training in infection control and who keeps up-to-date on infection-control issues. The team can attend a continuing-education seminar, or an outside trainer or consultant can be brought in to provide the training update. OSHA requires that the training be interactive, which means that if a video or other media are utilized for training, the team members who watch the video must have access to someone who can answer questions or clarify information for them.

Limitations with some training

I have observed many practices that use video presentations to fulfill their training requirements. A potential problem with this format is that while using the same video over and over again does provide some needed review, it does not offer any updated information. After several viewings, the interest of the team members is greatly reduced and the training often becomes ineffective. Another practice that I see is team members attending training updates that are marketed to both dental and medical practices. This tends to be confusing to dental teams, since some of the requirements for medical facilities do not apply to dental practices.

A team approach to training can be an effective learning process. Assigning each member of the team to research and gather information about a certain topic actively involves them in the training updates. Web searches, reading journal articles, and attending seminars are just a few activities that team members can take part in, and then report their findings to the rest of the team. In addition, breaking up the training into quarterly or monthly presentations at team meetings can be useful in holding the interest of the team, especially when the training is broken up into smaller segments. Each of these training sessions must be documented. Documentation must include the training date, names of the participants, topics covered, and the name and credentials of the person who presented or provided the training. These training records must be kept on file for three years, according to OSHA.

There are several valuable resources for infection-control updates. Included is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov. The CDC publishes an electronic newsletter called the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. MMWR highlights information about infectious diseases and other public health issues. The newsletter is available online as a free subscription. It can be accessed through the publications link on the CDC home page. In addition, the CDC has many fact sheets available to download from the Web site on topics such as avian flu, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases such as the recent mumps outbreak. A very important document available on the CDC Web site is the “Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Health Care Settings - 2003.” This document is widely recognized, in particular by many state dental boards, as the standard of care for infection prevention in dentistry. It contains recommendations for patient safety as well as occupational safety. The guidelines are easy to understand and contain many useful quick-reference charts. Reviewing this document as a team would serve as a great annual infection-control update for your practice.

In addition to the CDC, the Organization for Safety and Asepsis Procedures is another valuable resource for training information. OSAP publishes monthly newsletters (available through paid membership or subscription) and has several video training products available for purchase. The most recent addition to OSAP’s offerings is the updated version of the video “If Saliva Were Red.” This is a very effective training tool for teams to visualize the spatter and aerosolization of contaminants during treatment. Contact OSAP through its Web site at www.osap.org, or call (800) 298-6727.

The American Dental Hygienists’ Association, www.adha.org, has many resources available to its members. The Web site has links to many manufacturers of infection-control products. ADHA and its state and local components offer infection-control training programs at meetings throughout the year.

And last but not least, the fabulous RDH Under One Roof symposium for hygienists always offers several excellent infection-control courses that provide the most recent developments and product updates. In addition, many manufacturers of infection-control products exhibit at RDH UOR, offering participants many opportunities to learn about and sample products. Plan to attend RDH UOR this July for an outstanding educational and networking experience.

I believe that every hygienist needs to be a leader in his or her work setting. If your team hasn’t participated in infection-control training in a long time, be proactive and suggest alternatives for meeting this requirement. If your team regularly participates in training, express a positive attitude toward this responsibility. Your attitude and leadership can have a positive effect on your team and can help create a safer environment for you and your patients.