Join APIC in Celebrating IP Day on April 7
By: Devin Jopp, EdD, MS, CEO of APIC
During the pandemic, the world witnessed health care workers waging a relentless battle against COVID-19. Less visible, but no less important, were the health professionals working behind the scenes to make sure that our front-line heroes could do their jobs as safely as possible.
April 7 is International Infection Preventionists Day – a day to recognize the role infection preventionists (IPs) play in keeping patients and health care professionals safe from health care-associated infections (HAIs) and other emerging infectious diseases. The awareness event is organized and promoted by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), the leading association for IPs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that on any given day, 1 in 31 hospital patients and 1 in 43 nursing home residents has an infection as a result of their care. An estimated 72,000 patients will die each year. HAIs can often be prevented through careful monitoring and safety protocols overseen by IPs. Additionally, we know that emerging infectious diseases, like COVID-19, can be mitigated through infection prevention. We saw firsthand the dangers of inadequate infection prevention staffing and controls, with the approximately 200,000 deaths of residents and health care workers in long-term care facilities.
The U.S.’s approximately 35,000 IPs are the only specialists in health care dedicated solely to infection prevention and control (IPC). Specially trained and certified, they practice across a myriad of health care settings such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, long-term care, nursing homes, and ambulatory surgery centers. Increasingly, IPs also work with non-health care entities like schools, correctional facilities, and industry.
As an example of IPs at work, when you are receiving health care, IPs ensure that:
- Health care workers clean their hands at the appropriate moments
- Health care workers wear gloves, gowns, and respirators properly
- Catheters or indwelling devices are placed in your body after your skin receives proper cleaning and are kept clean and removed as soon as possible
- Safe injection practices are always followed so that needles and syringes are never reused
- Your room and any equipment that is used on you will be clean
During COVID-19, IPs took on many additional roles. They taught staff to safely re-use respirators and wear their PPE properly, supervised patient cohorting and screening, and planned for alternate care sites to handle patient surges.
In 2021, the CDC documented a sharp rise in HAIs, which prior to the pandemic had been steadily decreasing. Because of the strain that the pandemic placed on the entire health care system, central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI), catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI), ventilator-associated events (VAE), and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) increased exponentially.
APIC members had also predicted that certain HAIs would increase due to the pandemic. In March of 2022, APIC published a call-to-action white paper, exploring the lessons learned by IPs during COVID and highlighting the actions necessary at the facility level and the U.S. government level to strengthen IPC programs and make sure the U.S. has the capacity to handle future pandemics. The report called for significant investment in the nation’s IPC infrastructure and stressed the need to build capacity so that health care facilities can handle emerging threats to public health, while at the same time ensuring that gains made in combatting HAIs are not lost.
Part of creating a safer, more resilient health care system involves expanding the IP workforce. Between the pandemic, which exposed IPC needs, and an aging IP workforce with 40% of current IPs entering retirement age, there is an increasing shortage of IPs to fill vacant positions. To help meet the growing demand for IPs, APIC is championing efforts to expand academic pathways to enter the field, create internships, and share best practices for recruitment and retention.
So, in celebration of IP Day, please join APIC in saluting our IP heroes, encouraging more rising stars to join this dynamic and rewarding field, and advocating for resources to ensure that we have a workforce of IPs available to protect patients, health care workers, and our families from preventable infections.