Studies reveal a greater need for infection preventionists

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Hass: Responsibilities for infection prevention have grown.
Hass: Responsibilities for infection prevention have grown.

Outdated coverage benchmarks are leading to severe gaps in infection preventionist staffing, according to a pair of studies in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Researchers' findings did not take into account the pending federal requirement that skilled nursing facilities accepting Medicaid or Medicare funding must have a trained infection preventionist on staff by November 2019.

Still, “These studies demonstrate the critical need to re-evaluate staffing models to ensure that the demand for IP services is being adequately met so that we can effectively protect patients from infections,” said Janet Haas, Ph.D., president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

One new benchmark should be one full-time infection preventionist per 69 beds, rather than one-half or one full-time employee per 100 beds, experts said. That reflects the job's complexity, she said.

“As the responsibilities of infection prevention and control departments have grown, and the settings of care requiring IP services have expanded, many IPs find that they lack time to conduct activities that will have the most impact on preventing healthcare-associated infections, such as interacting with frontline teams in patient care areas,” Hass said.