Preventing C. diff infections with probiotics

Donna L. Parker RN, DON
Donna L. Parker RN, DON

It's been two years and we've had no Clostridium difficile infections. Yes, you are reading that correctly.  

After working in our local hospital for more than a decade, I became very familiar with C. diff infections. The majority of our patients became infected after a course of antibiotics.

I knew the standard treatments used to treat C. diff, but it was  a constant battle. I have to tell you, I think the illness was winning on most days.  We took multiple training sessions about proper hand washing and proper personal protective equipment use.  But none of that was stopping or controlling the infections effectively.  

I left acute care and was hired by one of our local nursing care centers as its director of nursing in April 2013.  I realized that it was not the infection control processes in place that were the problem and set out to find a way to reduce the C. diff rate in our facility.  

After reading multiple articles about probiotics, I thought the results were promising. I talked with my medical director about giving resident probiotics. He didn't see any harm, but there was a question of which one to use.

We decided on Diff Stat™ based on the research, and started using it on anyone receiving an antibiotic.  We initiated the program in June 2013. After starting with those given antibiotics, we extended it to the residents who were having bowel issues.  

One resident had suffered from recurring C. diff infections for more than a year before I began. He said the gastroenterologist's suggestions weren't helping. We started the resident on the probiotic daily, and he stopped having frequent loose stools. The stool sample revealed he had become C. diff negative! I couldn't believe it. We also found the residents on antibiotics and probiotics were not getting diarrhea. The residents on probiotics said they had become more regular. We left it up to them if they wanted to continue taking it everyday.  

Now our protocol is that any resident coming to us from the hospital starts on Diff Stat. My nursing staff knows that if an antibiotic is ordered to also start probiotics. By August 2016, we had not had any C. diff infections for two years.

Our little home has its difficulties, but I am very proud to tell anyone who will listen about this accomplishment. While it may not convince everyone, my residents have truly benefitted. We attempted to think outside the box and find a solution.

We are looking forward to implementing further change with the Antibiotic Stewardship Program. However, I earnestly hope that by writing this, someone out there will also try a probiotic program in junction with antibiotic stewardship.  Talk with your medical staff and pharmacists. We are a testament that probiotics do work in the fight against C. diff infections.

Donna L. Parker, RN, is the director of nursing at Adrian Manor Health & Rehabilitation Center in Adrian, MO.


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