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Guild named Infection Preventionist of the Year

Posted: December 23, 2010 11:01 a.m.
Updated: December 27, 2010 5:00 a.m.
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KershawHealth's Paula Guild

PaulaGuild, MN, RN, CIC, has been awarded the Infection Preventionist of the Year award by the Palmetto Chapter of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control (APIC). She serves as the infection prevention and control director for KershawHealth.

 “I am honored to have received this award. But I do this on behalf of our entire health care staff,” said Guild in accepting the award. “They are the ones on the front line who put infection prevention advice and guidance into practice to improve the outcomes for our patients.”

Infection preventionists -- who work not only in hospitals but in long-term, ambulatory and home care settings, as well as public health and emergency preparedness -- are experts in reducing the risk of infections and related adverse outcomes for patients, visitors, volunteers, employees and health care workers.

One of the programs included in Guild’s nomination was developed in response to a significant pertussis (whooping cough) outbreak at KershawHealth in the summer of 2009, followed by another potentially significant exposure in 2010. Experts at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) took note of the exposure management process developed after the 2009 outbreak and asked Guild to provide a presentation on the program to epidemiology professionals from across South Carolina. That was, noted Gloria Keefe, KershawHealth vice president/chief nursing officer, “indicative of the expertise Paula brings to her role at KershawHealth. We’re fortunate to have a certified infection preventionist of this caliber with such extensive knowledge on our team, and we’re very excited for her.”

The techniques infection preventionists employ can be as simple as encouraging proper handwashing techniques or as complex as addressing the causes of infections in those using catheters or ensuring the complex endoscopes used in procedures are properly sterilized. And it is often a host of simple changes, Guild said, that lead to the most profound effects.

“Remember when your mother told you to ‘wash your hands’? It turns out that mother does know best! The hand washing message is not only valid for children, but appropriate for each and every one of us who work, visit, or are involved in any way in healthcare. Believe it or not, the hand hygiene message and monitoring compliance are a major component of infection prevention,” said Guild.                           

Preventing and managing health care infections is a significant challenge for the industry. Not only do hospital-acquired infections kill more than 100,000 Americans each year, but they add billions of dollars annually to health care costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Infection preventionists bring together the science of epidemiology and infection prevention with policies and procedures designed to protect those most at risk. They recognize that while infections may never be entirely eliminated -- by working with health care professionals, hospital administrators and the public -- hospitals have the potential to approach zero by pursuing perfection, according to CDC officials. It is a complex task that requires the expertise and insight of a host of experts throughout the industry.

It’s that essential teamwork aspect to infection prevention that has most impressed Guild.

“In my many years of health care experience, working in infection prevention for the last 10 years has given me the greatest insight into the myriad of details that must be mastered and managed by every health care team member to ensure an infection-free outcome for our patients,” she said. “From preparing and using hospital disinfectants, to researching and applying best practices for inserting and managing urinary catheters, to sterilizing instruments for use in surgical procedures, each and every team member contributes to infection prevention for the patient's hospital experience.”

Any successful infection prevention program involves more than just watching people wash their hands and making sure that things are clean, said Guild. It takes every department in the hospital doing their part to prevent infection.

“I’m forever grateful for learning more about organisms from our microbiologist, about heating and air conditioning from our plant ops staff, about sterilization processes from sterile processing and about exposure management from our infectious disease physician,” she said.

Each of these, she emphasized, plays a vital role in creating a safer environment for patients.

“Without each of them caring about our patients as well as for our patients, KershawHealth’s infection prevention program would not be as strong as it is,” Guild said.

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