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Dedicated infection control nurses needed in ICU during pandemic

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Acute trusts should appoint a dedicated infection control nurse to work with staff in intensive care units during the height of a swine flu pandemic, latest research suggests.

Following an outbreak of swine flu in Australia in May this year, researchers from Brisbane’s Prince Charles Hospital studied the experiences of 32 medical and nursing staff working in the hospital’s ICU.

According to the researchers, the ICU became “overburdened” with the high number of patients requiring admission to the unit with suspected or confirmed swine flu, creating significant infection control problems for critical care nurses.

A lack of firm recommendations and guidelines on the use of personal protective equipment created confusion among staff, and the isolation procedures employed during the pandemic were identified by nurses as creating extra workload and frustration.

The study also found that the absence of a protocol to guide when a patient was cleared of being infectious, and conflicting advice about whether to treat a patient as infectious or not, also problems for ICU staff.

Employing a dedicated infection control nurse during a swine flu pandemic “would assist in resolving these issues”, provide extra support and education for staff, and help ensure that infection control procedures were properly adhered to, the researchers said.

The full study will be published in a forthcoming edition of the International Journal of Nursing Studies.

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