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Guest Editor: Don’t Stop Now
The pandemic gave infection control the attention it deserves, and it’s up to facility leaders to keep it that way.
Nancy Havill, MT(ASCP), MHA, CIC
Publish Date: May 18, 2022   |  Tags:   Opinion Infection Prevention

For the past two-plus years, the world has constantly turned to infection preventionists and epidemiologists looking for answers on how to combat an insidious and ever-evolving virus.

During a pandemic, every aspect of function — from staffing to patient care to day-to-day operations — is somehow tied to infection prevention. My peers and I were asked to write and revise policies at the drop of a hat on everything from how many people could be in a room at any given time to how often you should clean doorknobs. 

To this day, I know plenty of clinicians who won’t do anything without an infection prevention policy to guide them. Can you blame them? At my health system, where ASCs are working tirelessly to reach full capacity, physicians are unsure of what is and isn’t best practice as we inch closer to the endemic phase of COVID-19. 

Every day, we’re answering their questions about the protocols they should be following, such as:

  • Is pre-procedure testing still required for all surgical patients? 
  • How can we accommodate COVID-positive patients? 
  • How long after patients test positive must they be treated as infectious? 

The expertise of our infection preventionists is helping surgical teams navigate the many moving parts involved in performing safe surgery in the current environment. 

After suffering through a temporary shutdown of elective procedures — a shutdown that resulted in millions of surgeries being delayed or canceled — healthcare leaders were desperate for policies and protocols that could withstand any variant of COVID-19 and provide patients with safe outcomes. Now that we’re hopefully on the verge of an endemic phase of this disease and the data is trickling in, we’re finding that those policies, procedures, guidelines and best practices we put together — and constantly tweaked and refined — through the various waves of the pandemic did what they were supposed to do. They prevented the spread of the virus to the scared and desperate patients who trusted us enough to come in for surgery when most of society was in lockdown mode. New research shows COVID-19 transmission rates did not increase at surgery centers that remained open during periods other facilities temporarily shut down if those facilities adhered to proper evidence-based infection prevention measures.

Overall, I believe infection preventionists stepped up in a major way when our peers and patients needed us the most. And we did it the same way we always have: By thoroughly reviewing the literature and using the data to guide all our decisions. 

Of course, most of the best practices we pushed during the scariest moments of the pandemic we’d been advocating for long before COVID-19 was a staple in our collective vocabulary. In this special edition of Outpatient Surgery Magazine, you’ll read all about the timeless infection control protocols that have always informed our providers and kept our patients safe from the dangers of SSIs. From tried-and-true best practices such as proper hand hygiene and skin prepping techniques to meticulous surface disinfection and instrument and reprocessing protocols, infection prevention is all about sweating the small stuff and paying attention to even the tiniest details.

I firmly believe that anyone who lived through this pandemic — young or old, clinical or non-clinical — is going to carry the experience with them for a long, long time. As a result of the pandemic, infection prevention is a top priority for healthcare providers everywhere. 

But we can’t stop now. Let’s keep that momentum going. OSM