When Two Become One: Dynamic Duo Takes Center Stage

The Brooks-TLC Hospital System, Inc. infection control team of Lisa Barone, BSN, RN, CIC, director of infection control (L), and Theresa Schrantz, LPN, CIC, employee health coordinator (R), is well-known throughout the hospital system for doing an impressive job keeping patients and staff free from infection. But now, their coordinated approach to infection prevention and control (IPC) and occupational health (OH) has made them subject-matter experts on a national level.

The “dynamic duo”, as they’re referred to in editor Kelly M. Pyrek’s article “Occupational Health: Joining Forces With Infection Prevention” from the October 31, 2018 issue of Infection Control Today, is showcased for their integrated approach to fighting infection.  As the go-to source for infection preventionists and their colleagues in operating rooms, sterile processing, environmental services and materials management, Infection Control Today is considered the leading industry publication in the field.

In her research, Pyrek came across the Barone/Schrantz evidence-based model entitled “Employee Health and Infection Control: It Fits. Putting the Pieces Together,” a co-presentation from the 2017 Annual Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) Conference. She reached out and interviewed both women to gain insightful perspective on the combined approach that works particularly well for the Brooks-TLC Hospital System.

As excerpted from the article with editor permission…

In some hospitals, Occupational Health (OH) services and Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) are handled by one leader tasked with leveraging the synergies of both disciplines into a comprehensive healthcare worker and patient safety program. Personnel can be cross-trained in core activities such as surveillance, as well as receive education and instruction around the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE), vaccination, sharps safety and handwashing, among other interventions.

Conversely, collaboration is clearly key at Brooks-TLC.

“In our perspective you need to embrace each other’s knowledge and work together because so much of what we do is connected and affects each other,” says Schrantz. “To our readers who have any doubt consider this… if IPC focuses on patients, and OH focuses on employees, and employees take care of patients, and patients rely on employees for safe care, how do remove any part of this equation?”

Barone explains that having a plan that is understood by both departments is essential to a high-functioning safety culture. “It is important that OH knows and understands the Infection Control Plan that is developed at the beginning of the year to identify and minimize risk to both patients and healthcare workers,” she says. “For example, if hand hygiene compliance is both a risk and goal, OH should be aware because the more employees clean their hands, the higher risk of dermatitis, and other skin issues. During Influenza season, OH should be aware of the number of patients admitted with flu and flu-like symptoms for employee illness tracking.”

Kelly Pyrek’s article can be found in its entirety at https://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/occupational-health/occupational-health-joining-forces-infection-prevention.

Infection Control Today has been serving hospitals and their critical information needs in the area of infection prevention since 1997. Infection Control Today magazine, website and e-newsletters deliver the timely, relevant practice guidance that medical professionals need to protect their institutions, their patients and their fellow healthcare workers, and to eliminate healthcare-acquired infections.