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How to Be a Successful Infection Control - Prevention Coordinator
Posted: 11/5/2020


How to Be a Successful Infection Control/Prevention Coordinator 

By Jessica Wilson, MPH

Your Practice Is Counting on You to Increase Compliance. Here’s How to Get Started.

The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us that as healthcare professionals, we all play a role in preventing the spread of infectious diseases.

In a dental setting, infection prevention is everyone’s responsibility. But as with most crucial and complex duties, it always helps to have a knowledgeable point person to organize efforts, encourage compliance, and remind everyone of their commitments.

We call that person an infection control/prevention coordinator (ICPC).

In this article, we’ll describe how becoming an infection control/prevention coordinator can benefit your office and your career, provide tips for being the best infection control/prevention coordinator you can be, and discuss how the role has changed in the era of COVID-19.

Whether you’re new to the role or have been responsible for infection control coordination for years, read on.

Why Does Your Practice Need an Infection Control Coordinator?

Most dental offices already have someone designated as the “OSHA person” responsible for overseeing compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules. The infection control/prevention coordinator role is similar but goes much farther.

An ICPC serves three valuable functions:

1.      Developing and implementation the practice’s compliance program

2.      The “go-to” person for all questions and issues related to infection prevention.

3.      The person responsible for staying on top of frequently changing infection control guidelines and training.

Formally designating an infection control/prevention coordinator can give practice owners and staff the assurance that comes with never having to say, “I thought you were handling this.”

Why Should You Become an Infection Control/Prevention Coordinator?

From a hygienist’s perspective, becoming an ICPC is an excellent career opportunity. The job allows hygienists to continue caring for patients while taking on a leadership role within the practice.

Hygienists are typically already engaged in instrument reprocessing and other infection prevention activities. Infection control/prevention coordinator is a natural next step. Plus, hygienists are also typically respected influencers in their practices. If anyone can get the members of a practice onboard with new protocols, a hygienist can.

A word of caution, however: additional responsibilities demand additional investments of time. Practice owners should be prepared to give their infection control/prevention coordinators the time they need to conduct the research, apply the protocols, and perform the audits required by the role. Of course, other staff may also possess the skill set to be the ICPC and may have more time to take on the role. Dental assistants routinely take on the responsibility, and sometimes doctors choose to as well.

You’ve Just Become an ICPC. Now What?

A brand-new infection control/prevention coordinator should start by researching the standards and guidelines set in place by organizations such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as their state’s dental board regulations. Some state dental boards have adopted the CDC guidelines as their own, while others impose separate regulations. An ICPC must be familiar with both. (If you’re not sure where to find the right information, partner with a consultant.)

The next step should be a review of the practice’s existing protocols. Where are the gaps? What could be improved?

Once the practice has a robust set of infection prevention protocols in place, the infection control/prevention coordinator's job is to train the staff and periodically audit the team's performance to ensure the protocols are followed. The coordinator must also monitor regulatory guidelines for updates and make changes when necessary (for example, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic).

How Can You Prevent Infection Prevention Breaches?

Absolute infection prevention is impossible. A dental practice, like any business, is made up of humans, and human error does occur from time to time. However, infection prevention protocols exist to minimize the spread of infection.

An infection control/prevention coordinator’s most effective tools are awareness, observation, and training. By staying aware of changes to guidelines and disease trends (setting up Google News alerts for phrases like “dental infection breach” can be useful for this), a coordinator can ensure their practice is ready for the next major outbreak. Persistent review of the protocols, performance audits, and regular staff training will keep the entire practice up to date.

Has the Role of Infection Control/Prevention Coordinator Changed Since the Onset of COVID-19?

The role of ICPC hasn’t changed due to the COVID-19 epidemic. But the crisis has put a spotlight on how important it is to have someone in your practice dedicated to staying on top of infection prevention guidelines. Since the pandemic began, state and federal guidelines for dental practices – such as the interim recommendations issued by the CDC – have been revised several times.

How Does the GreenLight Compliance Center Help Dental Practices with Infection Prevention?

One of the most challenging aspects of the infection control/prevention coordinator’s job is finding their state dental board’s regulations, as well as staying abreast of changes. GreenLight Dental Compliance Center™ by Hu-Friedy does the work for you, conveniently packaging all the documentation and tools you need to be a successful infection control/prevention coordinator into one place.

GreenLight Dental Compliance Center offers:

·        A one-stop resource for updated compliance information from regulatory bodies, including access to state board web pages.

·        A compliance coordinator job description that can be customized for your practice.

·        E-books that explain the work of the compliance coordinator, with information on getting started and conducting audits.

·        Customized infection prevention protocol templates that align with your practice’s specific requirements.

·        An annual online infection prevention practice self-assessment.

·        A consultation section where you can request assistance from an infection prevention expert at Hu-Friedy or an external opinion leader.

·        Access to a knowledge base of frequently asked questions.

If you’re interested in learning more about GreenLight, sign up for a free live demonstration here.

 

 
 

About Jessica Wilson

Jessica Wilson, MPH, Business Development Manager, Infection Prevention & Instrument Management, HuFriedyGroup, is an international speaker, trainer and educator focused on Infection Prevention and Infection Control Compliance. Jessica is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island and has a master’s degree in Public Health with a focus in dentistry from AT Still University in Mesa, AZ. She is a member of the Association Board and volunteer consultant for the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP), a certified TeamSTEPPS Master Trainer for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and a Lean Six Sigma White Belt.





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