Preserving the infection control chain

Infection control is a critical component of any dental practice, but there are many points where the chain of infection protection can be broken.

by Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH
amrdh@aol.com

Infection control is a critical component of any dental practice, but there are many points where the chain of infection protection can be broken. Niki Henson has created a program titled, “Are You Glow Free: A New Look at Infection Control.” The program allows participants to evaluate the effectiveness of their protocols for infection control. Insights are offered on common mistakes that leave the dental professional vulnerable to infection control hazards, including proper hand washing, operatory disinfection, and instrument sterilization.

The objectives of Niki’s program include:

  • Identify infection control breakdowns within a practice
  • Apply the use of universal precautions
  • Identify common errors in infection control protocols and apply methods of corrective action
  • Describe proper hand washing and operatory disinfection

Niki believes that infection control is the largest area of concern within dental practices and where most problems occur. Every team member must be on the “same page” when it comes to infection control practices. For example, one team member may think the handle of the sterilizer is clean and another staff member may think it is dirty, thus creating a breakdown. There are many overlooked details in the infection control chain, and Niki has developed an application tool that addresses these issues.

Niki also presents a program on inventory control, “INventory: Controlling Assets and Efficiencies,” that discusses the financial status of the practice as it relates to the amount of inventory purchased and used. What comes in to a practice is not only important, but it is the pulse of the dental practice and can result in inefficiencies in the daily production and schedule.

Additionally, Niki has developed a program that is near and dear to her heart, “Dental Etiquette for the Special Needs Patient.” This program has grown from her family’s experience with her sons’ special needs. It introduces dental professionals to an insider’s perspective of the “people first” language, techniques used to improve access to care, when to refer or treat, and other tips to allow dental professionals the ability to serve patients with special needs comfortably.

Niki presents the infection control program in PowerPoint with lecture, discussion, and hands-on portions. Her PowerPoints include photographs and charts that enhance learning as well as provide emotional and clinical responses to the materials. All of her programs include hands-on segments, and she loves to be actively involved with her audiences.

Although she is not a hygienist, she has been a chairside assistant and clinical assisting instructor with a number of years of continuing education presentations, both nationally and internationally to entire dental teams. She desires for all teams to continue to increase their knowledge and skills to improve in quality, empathy, and standards in all areas of dentistry. Dental education is one of the passions in her life.

Beyond dentistry, Niki is passionate about her family, her husband, Alex, and two sons, Dustyn and Caleb. She is a devoted Christian and seeks to live her life for Christ. Dustyn is a special needs teenager, who needs a wheelchair to ambulate and struggles with his education. Caleb, after having eight surgeries on his ears, is partially deaf. Niki has been a special needs advocate for years and yearns to remove all special needs barriers by creating a better path for parents and children that may follow in her family’s footsteps. She spends significant amounts of her days on creating that path.

Niki believes that her programs help dental professionals increase their skill sets as a team in order to better serve all patients. By acting and reacting in a positive team manner — whether that be in the course of maintaining infection control protocols, assessing inventory levels, or providing care to the special needs populations — all objectives provide a win-win for the patient, team member, and practice.

For more information about Niki’s programs, contact her at NikiHenson@comcast.net.

Author’s note: Wishing all a happy holiday season and a healthy 2012! Thank you for being loyal followers of RDH magazine!


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Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and the Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries, as well as a continuous member of ADHA. Ann-Marie is currently a business/clinical coach for Jameson Management, Inc., a comprehensive coaching firm and also presents continuing education programs for dental team members on a variety of topics. She is collaborating with several authors on various books for dental hygiene and can be reached at amrdh@aol.com or ann-marie@jamesonmanagment.com.

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This month’s IneedCE.com course is “Esthetic Anterior Composite Restorations.” RDH readers will receive a 47% discount through the end of December 2012.


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