The Balance Between Long Term Infection Control Programs and Short Term

posted Jul 21, 2011, 9:01 AM by Todd Fox   [ updated Sep 24, 2016, 8:33 AM ]

When you visit APIC and other infection related tradeshows looking for information about infection control programs, are you focused on the long term or short term?  Forums, tradeshows and other training sessions are usually filled to the brim with Infection Preventionists trying to find a way to create effective prevention programs.  They are searching for the latest tools, teaching secrets, interesting activities, measurement processes and fun ideas.  From the OUTFOX experience, many of these show-goers are looking for a quick fix rather than sustainable solutions that will produce results (less Hospital Acquired Infections, less communicable disease outbreaks, less codes called, better health care overall, higher morale, etc.).


Some of these quick-fix follies include taking too broad or too narrow of a focus.  For example, a focus on the long term aspect of infection control programs, without short term initiatives, does not capture the interest of the staff members and quickly lose effectiveness.  The long term program may be congruent with the health facility’s overall strategy, but leaders, departments, and staff members need to be engaged often.  Without constant reminding (hygiene posters, standard precautions, etc.), competitions, hygiene activities and so forth, a program will lose luster compared to the immediate tasks at hand for the employee.  An infection control program cannot function under a “If we build it-they will come” mentality where leaders expect employees to eventually catch on to the rules and models established.  Do not misunderstand that having a long term perspective is a bad thing- since having a long term strategy is imperative to receiving positive results.


In contrast to the problems associated with a focus mainly on the long term, having an intense focus on short term initiatives can burn staff members out.  Employees that are continually blasted with short term goals, sanitation competitions, health events and so forth will eventually lose direction and energy for longer term initiatives.  Think of how confusing it would be if a basketball team was judged differently EACH game.  One game they would win because of points and then the next they would lose because they had less passes during the game.  The long term strategy keeps the goal the same (points ultimately win the game), but short term initiatives control the tempo of the game (plays and defensive sequences). 


Hence, a recommended program strategy is to have a mixture of the two mindsets.  Balancing your strategy will increase measurable results and also to keep staff members interested.  To begin (you probably have already done this), work with facility (hospital, clinic, etc.) administrators to come up with appropriate long term goals.  Once the long term goals, rules and processes have been established, plan out a series of short term events that will support and drive staff members to the end goal.  Some of the short term ideas include:

  • Departmental compliance competitions
  • Weekly or monthly meetings (Daily for immediate employee groups) to get on the same page
  • Prizes handed out based on observations (hand washing, clean environments, reporting, innovations, ideas, etc.)
  • Have a comment or suggestion box (include incentives for good infection control ideas)
  • Post employees of the month (in relation to infection control)
  • Hold mandatory internal trainings (rotate teachers and subjects)
  • Have an employee from one department teach the other departments what they do and how it fits into the facility’s long term strategy (rotate all departments)
  • Choose one aspect of infection control to highlight and choose a winner for each department
  • Hygiene Olympic Games (See OUTFOX Medical Manual Edition)
  • Health initiatives grouped with holiday celebrations (i.e. decorate according to holiday with infection control theme “Germy Halloween,” etc.)
  • More ideas can be found in the OUTFOX Medical Manual Edition (Hygiene Instructional Manual)


So, are you focused too much on the long term or short term?  Sometimes the best thing is to get a third party’s opinion to know you’re on the right track.  Send in your plan and OUTFOX will review it for free.  A representative will give you feedback on the goals set, breadth of promotion, resources available and general appeal of your infection control program.  Contact us here.

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