Studies reveal significantly higher need for infection preventionists in care settings

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Outdated coverage benchmarks are leading to severe gaps in infection preventionist staffing, according to results of a pair of studies recently in the American Journal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

“These studies demonstrate the critical need to reevaluate 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 (APIC), which issued a news release Tuesday.

One of the studies shows that across the Providence Health & Services healthcare system, actual IP labor needs were 31% to 66% higher than current benchmarks — meaning that the demand for IP services is significantly higher than even the highest current staffing ratio benchmark. The second study, which analyzed infection prevention staffing and resources in U.S. acute-care hospitals based on results from the 2015 APIC MegaSurvey, showed similar gaps.

The studies, which explored infection prevention and control resourcing across healthcare settings, found a new benchmark, 1.0 IP full-time equivalent (FTE) per 69 beds, which shows a greater IP need than the previous standard of 0.5-1.0 FTE per 100 beds and considers IP oversight for all physical locations including long-term care, ambulatory and home care settings.

Both studies support the view that IP staffing recommendations should be based on the care and services provided by a healthcare institution, rather than on a single, static ratio, which might not be appropriate for all models, according to the release.

“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,” Haas said.