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Working to Reduce Healthcare-Associated Infections
Date: 4/6/2012

Insect repellant was nowhere on the agenda at the “Bugs Be Gone” educational session on March 29, 2012, at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton. The day’s focus was a much more serious topic: infection prevention. The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that at any given time, about one in every 20 patients develop an infection related to hospital care. More than 60 multidisciplinary healthcare professionals from Mercer County and surrounding areas who attended the half-day event are now better equipped to help reduce that number.


It’s important for patients and practitioners to realize the importance of healthcare-associated infections and how to avoid them to improve outcomes as well as how they both play a role in reducing infections by limiting antibiotic usage and improving hand hygiene,” said Dr. Seth Rosenbaum, an infectious disease physician at RWJ Hamilton. “For practitioners, it’s essential to realize they play a role not just in inpatient treatment but also in treatment and outcomes post-discharge.”

The driving force behind the infection prevention meeting was a collaborative made up of representatives from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton; Hamilton Continuing
Care; Water’s Edge; Healthcare Quality Strategies, Inc.; Mercer Street Friends Home Health Care; Millhouse; and Ferris Mfg. Corp. The Infection Prevention: Bugs Be Gone event “…brought together the disciplines from the acute, sub-acute, home care, and long-term care to show this is a cross-setting issue and that we all face the same problem,” said Ellen Rankin, RN, BSN, Mercer Street Friends. “The event highlighted the problem and encouraged shared improvements that can positively affect us all no matter what area we’re in. The most important step toward that goal is for everyone to wash their hands. Wash, wash, wash their hands,” said Susan Hermida RN, MSN, GCNS, CWCN, Clinical Nurse Specialist, at RWJ Hamilton.

Speakers at the session covered many facets of healthcare-acquired infections: Dr. Rosenbaum discussed prevention, identification, and treatment of surgical site infections as well as the appropriate use of antibiotics; Tina Makker, MS, RD, CNSC, Clinical Dietician, RWJ Hamilton, helped participants understand the relationship between good nutrition and infection prevention; Janet Phillips, RN, Healthcare Quality Strategies, Inc., New Jersey’s federally-designated Quality Improvement Organization, summarized the healthcare-associated infections focus under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ current nationwide initiatives.

Two consistent messages reverberated through the presentations: the importance of effective hand hygiene and the appropriate use of antibiotics. Dr. Rosenbaum said “judicious and appropriate antibiotic usage is very important because it’ll help conserve our rapidly-decreasing antibiotic supply so we are not limited in our treatments as a result of years and years of inappropriate antibiotic usage.”  “We do not want to leave our children and grandchildren with that scenario,” added Neha Merchant, RN, Hamilton Continuing Care.

J.W. Dawson, RPh, CCP, Consolidated Pharmacy Consultants, focused on the most common multidrug-resistant organisms, including Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus and Clostridium Difficile; and Neha Merchant, RN, emphasized the importance of hand washing before providing a detailed look at catheter-associated urinary tract infection, central line-associated bloodstream infection, and the components of an effective infection prevention program.

Among the attendees was a group of nursing students from The College of New Jersey School of Nursing. Corimae Gibson, SN, is participating in the Clinical Program at Robert Wood Johnson. She said, “The information presented today was really valuable. I’m a student at TCNJ and I’m about to enter the nursing profession. This information is the first step toward avoiding all the complications and patient loss we heard about today.”

Developing a presentation to take on the road is the next goal of the collaborative. The members are encouraged by the participation and want to continue to build on the involvement captured in this successful event. By traveling to educate nurses and other healthcare workers in Mercer County home health agencies and nursing homes, the team can conduct in-service sessions designed to help identify signs and symptoms of infections that may reduce readmissions and improve patient care.

For more information on how to reduce healthcare acquired infections, visit

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