This is part four of a four-part article on infection prevention techniques that prepare facilities for possible pandemic outbreaks.

Educating and training custodial workers well in advance of a possible pandemic is crucial — not only to protect patients, but to protect the staff. According to Smith, EVS executives need to consider cross-training their custodial workers, as well as providing guidelines for on-the-spot training as part of their contingency plan.

At the same time, Smith cautions managers not to overlook everyday job requirements that present opportunities for training.

“What we failed to emphasize during the Ebola outbreak is that people should put masks and gloves on every day as part of their job,” she says. “We should use those opportunities as a way to practice before there’s a pandemic.”

Likewise, good hand hygiene habits should be encouraged on a daily basis. Remind people to remember the basics.

“We’ve done so much work on counting how many people are washing their hands that we’ve forgotten to watch how well they’re washing their hands,” says Smith. “Good hand hygiene is going to be our primary protection against communicable diseases.”

Along with hand washing, Smith advocates vaccines as the best defense against contracting a contagious disease.
“Make sure the vaccine status of the EVS workers is up to date,” she urges. “It’s good protection for people who are cleaning, and it’s something that should be built into the program.”

Black agrees. “Being at the hospital, EVS workers can get their flu and Measles vaccines before they go to work,” she says. “They’re part of a key team to minimize healthcare associated infections, and while it’s important they protect themselves, they’re protecting other patients, too.”

Being an active part of the team was essential for Dunbar, whose comprehensive infection prevention program was applauded by CDC as being ahead of the curve. Her advice: Get involved.

“Make sure your voice is heard,” she advises. “We worked so well as a team, and we respected each other’s opinions. The clinical staff really knew the value of us coming in and cleaning. So stick up for your processes and procedures and your people, because if you trained them right, they really are the experts.” 

KASSANDRA KANIA is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Understanding Transmission Of Germs