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Variety is the spice of life

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For Liz Grogan every day is different, which is what makes her job in infection prevention and control so enjoyable

If Liz Grogan went on What’s My Line and had to mime what she did on a “typical” day, the panelists would never guess she was an infection prevention and control nurse specialist.

“You do a little bit of everything. You have your finger in every pie across the organisation,” says Leeds Community Healthcare’s Ms Grogan. “As infection control affects so much in the trust we get asked to be involved in everything, including estates management, inpatient areas, sharps safety, water management, to the paint on the walls.

“The job is so varied that one day we will be treating a patient with head lice as part of our Head Start Service and then the next we’ll be looking at architectural drawings for new developments. Every day is genuinely different, which is what makes the job so fascinating.”

She was probably always going to have to do something a bit different. Two years after qualifying as an RN in 2004 and working in intensive care at South Tees NHS Trust, she decided to go travelling for a year.

When she returned, Ms Grogan started at Bradford Royal Infirmary investigating surgical site infections in line with the Safer Patient Initiative, and that “started the ball rolling” for her passion for infection prevention and control.

After Bradford, she got a job as a trainee infection control nurse with NHS Leeds, where she did a course in the science and practical application of infection control nursing at Leeds University.

And while she has applied that to hospitals in the past, she is now more concerned with looking after patients in their homes, which she says can be more challenging.

“It can be difficult to rely on facilities when caring for patients in their own home, the majority of environments we enter are satisfactory, but sometimes it can be challenging, so we provide hand hygiene packs to all our health professionals to ensure that they use appropriate hand-cleansing equipment.”

The infection prevention and control team this year ran the staff flu vaccination programme and raised uptake in frontline staff by 17.7% to vaccinate more than 70.2% of staff at LCH.

“We started by researching why staff didn’t have the vaccine,” she says. “And we uncovered lots of myths, which we dispelled throughout our campaign - that we started on 1 October during Leeds Community Healthcare Safety Culture Week - such as ‘the 12 flu myths of Christmas’ marketing collateral.”

LCH recruited 34 flu champions across the city to enthuse and motivate their peers to get the jab.

They also used clever methods of communication, such as text messaging and linking getting the jab with the Olympics, bonfire night and Christmas, and then finally cold calling people.

It’s unusual for an infection prevention and control team to run the flu campaign, as it usually sits with the occupational health team, but she says the input of infection control helped contribute to the success of the campaign.

She also believes the success of any infection control programme relies on the support of managers, and says that the accessibility and enthusiasm of her board, especially chief executive Rob Webster and the executive (nurse) director of quality Angie Clegg, has led others to understand the importance of infection control and flu vaccination.

While much of her role is reactive, for instance looking at outbreaks of Norovirus or gastroenteritis, monitoring outbreaks in care homes and nurseries, she says she and her colleagues do have certain strands of work that are proactive. Most recently, this has included looking at the impact of MRSA in care homes and whether training can have an impact on reducing infection.

What motivates her is the ability to make a difference by monitoring and involving everyone in making a change. “There’s always room for improvement, promoting a zero tolerance towards preventable healthcare-associated infection,” she says.

Jenni Middleton

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