VETERINARY TECHNICIANS: THE KEY TO CLINIC INFECTION CONTROL AND PROTECTING PATIENTS FROM DISEASE DR. JASON STULL, VMD, MPVM, PHD, DACVPM In the VETgirl-Zoetis webinar, Dr. Jason Stull, VMD, MPVM, PhD, DACVPM, assistant professor of veterinary epidemiology and preventive medicine at The Ohio State University and University of Prince Edward Island, presented a 1-hour webinar reviewing veterinary infection control and the role technicians can play in developing and improving a program for their facility. You can view it here: https://vetgirlontherun.com/webinars/april-19- 2020-veterinary-technicians-the-key-to-clinic-infection-control-and-protecting-patients-from-disease/
1 Hospital-associated infections (HAIs) are infections acquired by patients while in the hospital. In human hospitals, HAIs are a well- recognized contributor to illness and death, with tens of thousands of patients dying from HAIs each year. Similar HAI risks have been reported in veterinary medicine, such as HAIs in 16% of ICU patients in one study and many published HAI outbreaks in veterinary facilities. Recent experiences with COVID-19 highlight the importance of veterinary practices having a well-established infection control program. Given their background knowledge, integral role in patient care, awareness of practices by personnel, veterinary technicians can play a key role in developing and overseeing their facility’s infection control program. 2 Every veterinary practice should have a documented infection control program. At a minimum, this should be a collection of infection control standard operating procedures (SOPs), growing into a formal manual including staff education and training, client education, surveillance, and compliance programs.
3 A seven-step process is recommended to develop and optimize an infection control program. Some of those steps are highlighted below (further details, including numerous resources to accomplish each step are available at: https://www.aaha.org/biosecurity). • Identify a staff member to oversee the development and implementation of the program. This person, termed an infection control practitioner (ICP), serves a critical role in a clinic infection control program. These individuals are involved in program development, maintenance, compliance, and evaluation. Veterinary technicians are perfect for this job. • Perform an infection control assessment. ICPs should identify clinic-specific infection control strengths and weaknesses, allowing for targeted work on most needed areas. The ICP should then begin to develop and re ne an infection control manual containing protocols for identi ed areas of need.
A suggested assessment tool is available (https://www.aaha.org/ biosecurity). • Identify and develop protocols and checklists. Written SOPs should be the main source of guidance for an infection control program. These protocols should clearly describe the roles, duties and actions of all team members for specific key practices. Checklists should be developed and used to help remind and track compliance with SOPs when applicable. Infection control topics to include in SOP development, include: • Hand hygiene (see below) • Cleaning and disinfection • Personal protective equipment • Identifying high-risk patients (e.g. questions to ask when booking appointments; how to admit, handle and discharge these patients)
• Isolation/dedicated areas for high-risk patients (i.e., when and how to use these facilities).
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