19 October 2018 | Commentary
Infection preventionists are the leaders of the overall efforts to prevent healthcare-association infections within a healthcare facility. As the leader, the infection preventionist has many roles including educator, collaborator, liaison, consultant, evaluator and subject matter expert.
Working as an infection preventionist, I learned all these roles included responsibilities related to prevention of Legionella and other waterborne pathogen infections. I was responsible for coordinating and collecting water samples for Legionella as part of a proactive environmental testing program and interpreting and reporting those results. I provided support to our local health department, as a liaison, when a patient’s test results were determined positive for Legionella. I served as a subject matter expert on our water safety team, new products committee and construction and renovation meetings sharing my expertise to protect patients, visitors and staff from exposure to Legionella and other waterborne pathogens.
My experience on our facility’s water management team taught me that It is essential that all members team are willing to work together to achieve the goal of ensuring the safety of the facility’s water system. The multidisciplinary team should include members with expertise in infection prevention, facilities management, microbiology, accreditation standards and licensing requirements, and risk management. As per the CDC, you may need to train your in-house personnel or hire professionals with specific experience in Legionella in building water systems. The team should cultivate open communication and respect each team members expertise.
Laura Morris is the education coordinator at Special Pathogens Laboratory. Certified in infection professional since 2009, Morris most recently served as senior infection preventionist at St. Clair Hosptial (Pittsburgh). She has more than five years experience in microbiology research in Legionella. An active member of the Three Rivers Pittsburgh Chapter of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, and has served on the chapter’s board of directors for eight years.