Infection prevention always plays a crucial role in healthcare, but this year it took the spotlight. The Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) team at CCDHB suddenly found themselves in high demand, as their expertise was sought on every aspect of delivering safe care in the time of COVID-19.
“We had to be flexible,” explains Karen Corban. “Someone would call and say ‘we need you to carry out PPE training tomorrow at 3pm’. So you’d stop everything and go and do it.”
Karen is one of four infection control clinical nurse specialists who sit in a wider infection services team of around 15, made up of physicians, registrars, a pharmacist and clinical microbiologists, based in Wellington Regional Hospital and the SCL laboratory.
The team focuses on supporting good infection prevention principles. “We’re doing things like checking people are wearing masks, donning and removing PPE correctly, gelling their hands, minimising contact with any infectious patients, and following good cleaning processes.”
Their other key focus is ensuring that best processes are followed at every step of a person’s journey through hospital, testing, or isolation facility. The nurse specialists worked with departments across the hospital to set up COVID-19-specific processes and revisit existing ones.
They began by carrying out PPE training, in person and via video, and then delegating training to share information quickly. Team members were also involved with setting up processes for CBACs, from PPE training to safe swab collection, processes for safe movement through the centre, and identifying other potential areas for CBACs. As the outbreak progressed, the team continued to provide perspective on changing COVID-19 processes and resources.
After an intense two-week period auditing Aged Residential Care (ARC) processes, the team is now busy supporting Wellington’s hotel-based isolation facilities, working with Regional Public Health (RPH), NZ Police, NZ Defence Force, and the Regional Isolation and Quarantine Control Centre (RIQ). This includes advising hotel staff on safe processes around food, waste management and linen, and overseeing staff who swab returnees.
Meanwhile, project work deferred during COVID-19 is now coming back on-stream, such as the hand hygiene audit and the ‘Know your IV lines’ project. “One outcome of COVID-19 is that we’ve gone back to basics with hand hygiene and other infection prevention precautions,” says Karen. “These are good processes that will keep anyone safe.”