The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed health care and altered the very core of infection prevention. This global health crisis has shed light on ways that hospitals and health care systems can avoid life-threatening infections and, most importantly, continue to protect the health and well-being of patients and staff.
The powerhouse infection prevention team at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center has worked around the clock on the front lines of the pandemic.
Myra Laurino, an infection preventionist (IP) and co-chair of Sharp HealthCare’s infection prevention committee, has previously grappled with the effects of a pandemic and disease outbreak during her nursing career, but nothing quite like this.
“When I started out in infection prevention 12 years ago, my first experience with a pandemic was with novel influenza A (H1N1). Then we had SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), then the Ebola virus,” says Laurino. “COVID-19 has been such a different experience from those, but has shown us how important it is to have trained professionals in infection prevention. Our role as an IP during a pandemic is to manage and disseminate the overload of information that comes out when a novel virus hits globally. We help provide accurate information to dispel any poor information that may lead to fear and unsafe practice.”
Since March 2020, Sharp Chula Vista’s IPs have continued their precautionary efforts as nurses and doctors feel their presence on the hospital floors.
“As an infection preventionist, we are a resource and guide for our staff during the pandemic,” says Josie Candelaria, an infection preventionist. “When this all started, they had so many questions about COVID-19, especially about what personal protective equipment to wear, what isolation precautions are needed and just general questions about the new virus. We needed to be there for them — a phone call away or with our rounding — to answer their questions and give them the tools they needed to take care of their patients and themselves safely.”
She adds, “It is most rewarding when I can answer some of the front-line nurses’ questions to decrease their fears even just a little. While I was completing my rounds on the floors, one of the nurses commented, ‘When I see you, you’re like a comfort blanket.’”
They all share a common goal: unrelenting commitment to their practice, colleagues and community at large.
“I am so proud of our Sharp Chula Vista team because this has been such an ‘all hands on deck’ experience,” says Cynthia Stuart, infection preventionist and manager of restorative care at Birch Patrick Skilled Nursing Facility. “The team has shown extraordinary resilience in these stressful times. We have all learned so much about the importance of personal protective equipment, hand hygiene, environmental cleaning, masking and all the infection prevention measures that are important to keeping ourselves, each other and our patients safe. It’s nice to be a part of something so meaningful.”
“Being an IP is a very dynamic and challenging role,” says Laurino. “What I find most rewarding in my role is how many different disciplines I touch by providing education, resources and problem-solving. That interaction then makes an impact for patients, the hospital, and the community that I live in and serve.”
Infection preventionists are essential in the rapid coronavirus response, and they are raising the profile of a profession that is forever changed.
For the news media: To speak with Sharp Chula Vista’s infection prevention team for an upcoming story, please contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.