My Journey to Infection Prevention Spotlight
I wanted to get a bit personal today. I want to fill you in on how I got to this place, a nurse now doing podcasts, and how has my progress been with Infection Prevention Spotlight. I wanted to share with you my trails and my successes. And what to let you know what I’m up to in the future.
I hope you enjoy my little story.
In 2003 I went back to school get my second bachelors in Nursing at the University of Washington. I was 33 and I wanted a career that meant something to me. I had worked in Seattle at the height of the internet bubble working on streaming and promoting musical content. So basically my team and I were trying to get everyone who was interested in Music to use our company’s product to stream Britney Spears! Nothing wrong with Britney, but I knew there was more to my life goals than that. Then the dot com crash happened and I was laid off along with several hundred of my fellow co-workers.
Even while still working, I had been looking for that other thing that I could feel good about and was exploring the non-profit world. But I knew I needed a career that could provide a decent and steady paycheck, and I wanted the flexibility to work anywhere in the country and not be tied to one city for one job.
So, I looked at the community college courses I took after my first bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Ithaca college in NY, I was thinking I might like to be a physical therapist but decided against it. I had a bunch of science courses already done, and after a little more research I discovered the nursing profession.
Growing up, my mom had a couple of friends who were nurses. I remember my brother shook up a bottle of soda and opened it so the cap flew up and cut his nose. My mom called her nurse friend over to help, and that was it, the only exposure to a nurse I’d ever had.
But, as I was researching I found out that once you get your degree and get your nurses license you can do almost anything as a nurse. You can work with patients, or course, but nurses also use their expertise to analyze information to develop and promote life-saving best practices.
So, like the rest of you nurse listeners out there I finished my remaining prerequisites and then applied to nursing schools. I don’t know about you, but I felt like one of the most stressful times in my life was applying to schools. It was really hard to get into a nursing school when I was applying and I did a major happy dance when I finally got my acceptance letter to the University of Washington.
Fast forward two years to my graduation. There were many hard classes, but I made some of the best friends. Unfortunately we’ve lost touch now, but I think about them and I smile at all our wonderful times together. In nursing school, I had a really great clinical instructor who was so supportive of me, she always said my past experience with computers would serve me well as a nurse, and she was right.
At graduation, I took a job on one of the units I that I had done a clinical rotation on. It was a hemopoietic stem cell unit. That was my first understanding of Quality and Infection Prevention. It was my skill and good practice around central lines and hand hygiene that kept those severely neutropenic patients free from infection as their immune system was being built back up.
I then took a job at a Cardio Thoracic Surgical Intensive care unit. I thought if I could care for patients after a heart or lung transplant, I could do anything. Well I did it, but I really didn’t like it. It was way too stressful for me. Some of the nurses came in and literally said who I am going to save today. They were like nurse super heroes in that ICU. I was saying “Please give me a stable patient” I didn’t want to have to bring my crashing patient down to surgery. Ugh even thinking about it now creates a bit a stress response. I applaud all you nurses and doctors who can work in an ICU and in the emergency departments. You are amazing people and thank goodness you are doing what you do. But that was not for me, and while working in the ICU, I kept seeing a woman walk around talk to the nurses about their patients and finally she talked to me and I found out she was a case manager. I asked what she did, where in the hospital she worked, and how does a nurse become a case manager. She was great, she was a nurse for over 25 years and she explained everything and got me excited for another possibility outside of direct patient care.
The universe opened another door for me and it turned out the case manager position on my current service had been open and this wonderful woman was just filling in. So I shadowed her for a day to make sure this was something I was interested in and then applied. The Care Coordination manager was so impressed that I took a day off to shadow the current case manager that she was willing to hire me and train me to be a case manager. I was now a nurse case manager.
I loved case management, it was a great fit. I was organized, I could communicate well with patients and families. I was able to talk to the insurance agencies and show that the patients were sick enough to be in the hospital and that we were doing enough and the correct services to justify them staying.
After several years as a case manager I was working at a medical center that also had a nursing school and I had been thinking that I wanted to get my masters in nursing to make a jump to the next level in my career. It was such a great deal, a portion of my tuition was covered by my job and I went on to get my masters in nursing, focusing on nursing administration.
When I had graduated, I wanted to try another area of nursing. And one of the great learning opportunities I received during my graduate studies was that we were introduced to nurse leaders in different areas. As a nurse you know there are other things nurses do beyond the bedside, but this was a chance to be exposed to these people and hear from them and hear how they got their current position and what they did on a daily basis. One of the nurse leaders we heard from was a director of quality. I did not know what a quality department did at that time, but she told us about her team and how the hospital was measured and what they did to help the hospital staff to have a better practices and ultimately better patient outcomes. I found that interesting, but at the end of her lecture she started talking about the Infection Control Department.
I immediately thought of the book the hot zone that I loved by Richard Preston: If you don’t know it, this is the write up from amazon.com on the hot zone: The bestselling landmark account of the first emergence of the Ebola virus. A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic "hot" virus.
So that is where my thoughts went as I was listening to the director of quality talk about infection prevention and she was telling everyone that they were expanding the department and needed seasoned nurses to join and use their nursing knowledge and experience to help decrease infections.
So, as you can guess, I was sold. I was caught by the Infection Prevention bug. No Pun intended!
So I was able to join a large and ever growing infection prevention department. There were two other nurses that started around the same time as I did. We went through a 10 week intensive training program and at the end of it we were then set free to be the Infection Control Practitioners in our area of focus. My inpatient focus was adult med/surg units. I had guidance from a seasoned IP to help, but even with that, I was very aware that I needed to know more to be the most knowledgeable IP I could be. I decided to study to get certified in infection control. So I studied and studied. It was like taking the NCLEX all over again. And then I took and passed the test six months after I became and IP. Once again, another time in my career that a major happy dance took place!
I really enjoyed my first IP job, but I had a wonderful and unexpected surprise. I had my first (and only) baby and decided to leave my position to stay home with her after her birth. When my daughter was almost two, my husband I switched. He was going to stay home with our daughter as she soon transitioned into preschool and I would go back to work.
I was able to get a position fairly easily at a smaller hospital as its sole IP. They had an interim person in there for a while and she was kind enough to stay with me for a couple of months until I got up to speed, but when she left, I was the only one.
I know that resonates with a lot of you. Only one IP for a facility. I did have an amazing Infectious Disease Physician who worked with me and we had a great partnership, but my boss was a quality director who had no Infection Prevention background and often it was difficult to push initiatives through due to the lack of knowledge at the senior leadership level when there was no manager or no director of Infection Prevention. I’m sure some heads are nodding out there.
I was saved from a not so good working scenario and a very long commute to work close to home and had an offer to work with a former college of mine. I was in that role as an IP for two years, learning tons, able to be a true leader in infection prevention, and getting a lot of practice in preparing for surveys, the state and the Joint commission.
I then decided for my family I needed more time. In a two person IP department, the higher ups don’t want to lose that Full time position, so I wasn’t able to transition into a part time roll. I really didn’t want to leave, but my family needed a bit more attention.
It’s been almost six months since I left. Time has flown by. My family – my husband I got healthier, we are eating better, we both lost about 25 pounds, and we have put plans in place to help at home when I go back to work.
And I started Infection Prevention Spotlight! It was a lot of trial and error, a lot of one step forward and two steps back. But finally, on Oct 6 the website was ready for prime time, a huge agonizing accomplishment. Simultaneously I was taking a great podcasting course that really pushed me through to launching my own podcast, this one. I was ready with my first one in September, but decided to launch my project during Infection Prevention Week.
During this whole process, I really feel that the technology has been the one piece that slows me down. Not fully knowing how to do something myself brings me to a halt. I think after all my trails, I have come to a conclusion, try it, but if it can’t be learned enough to function well after a few tries, maybe get someone who is an expert to do it. They will do it quickly and there are so many freelancers out there right now that can easily be found and hired through quality source websites that I don’t need to take three weeks to learn something that will continue to take me five times the normal amount of time every time I attempt it. I am an expert in other areas and I need to focus my time and efforts with those things.
Well, the podcast is up and I’m very happy with it. I’ve met some great guests and have been able to make many connections with others. The Infection Prevention Spotlight website is currently where I promote this podcast and soon I will be providing training there too for Infection Prevention and Survey Readiness.
As an IP I repeatedly heard from the nurse managers, could you do a video on that. Do you have a step by step presentation that we could have? Could you physically come to every staff meeting we have for all shifts to cover what we need to know for this upcoming survey. And as a sole IP or an IP of a very small department, my answer was unfortunately no. I didn’t have a great video that focuses on the exact area we were messaging. And no I didn’t have a great how to presentation that shows the 5 most important things every person on that unit needs to understand and be able to articulate when a surveyor walks through their unit and stops them to ask a question. As an IP I didn’t have those resources at my fingertips. I had to piece meal something sort of together, maybe, but mostly I didn’t have time for that specific messaging and training to the staff around IP practices beyond what we offered during annual IP education or new employee orientation. There may be a flyer created, messaging in a manager meeting, but what gets to the bedside staff is often filtered and often gets to them garbled and incorrect.
My plan with Infection Prevention Spotlight is to create these as focused, easy to use trainings in Infection Prevention basics and Survey readiness.
The past few months have been great, taking a break gave me enough mental space and time to see what else is happening in the Industry of Infection Prevention, it’s been amazing. There are so many smart individuals out there doing great things.
There is a wonderful woman, she is a nurse, and a three time C.diff survivor. She founded the C.diff Foundation. She now has a live weekly radio show that reaches individuals touched by C.diff in 30 countries. Her name is Nancy Carella and I will have the honor of interviewing her in the near future.
I interviewed an ICU nurse who had a great idea to keep his patients safe, he created a one-time use wash basin liner. His name is Neil Morris and you can listen to him on episode 8.
There are individuals out there making this world better by finding ways to decrease hospital acquired infections -- and actually following through on those ideas!
So now, I’m returning to work in Infection Prevention so I can continue to learn as an IP and a nurse, and so I can continue to share with you. I know it can feel like you are the only IP out there, but you are not. As IPs we are so heads down we often don’t look up and we don’t often reach out. I’m reaching out to you and I hope you will share this podcast with other fellow IPs who you think may enjoy knowing that they are also not alone.
Well, I enjoyed sharing my story and my journey. I hope you found some commonalities and will continue to listen as we move to podcast episode 11 and onward.
Thank you for your time and all the great work you do for the profession of nursing and Infection prevention.