Nursing Times award winners on the role of practice educators in infection control
The role of the practice educator specifically for infection control was created in February 2007. The aim initially was to improve rates of infection in the trust and bridge the gap between the infection control team and ward staff in the clinical area. The idea was to have practice educators working at the bedside alongside staff, teaching and assessing clinical skills based on best infection control practices. These skills include hand hygiene, aseptic technique, central line, peripheral line care amongst others.
Initially the first two practice educators were based on two wards, one medical and one surgical ward. Ward based staff reactions were mixed to this new post. Staff were reluctant to work with the practice educator, felt threatened, and were confused about what the role actually involved. As a new post the role boundaries were constantly changing, so it was a steep learning curve for all staff involved!
However, as the practice educators got to know staff in the clinical area and what their challenges were, relationships were developed. Ward staff began to view the practice educator as a useful resource, supporting and educating the staff. The pilot scheme on the two wards proved so successful that by September 2008 four full time practice educators were in post.
A change in attitude and acceptance of the practice educators by the ward staff was instrumental to the success of the role. One of the practice educators reflects: “Initially when we started to work on a ward, we had never seen staff disappear so quickly! However, now the ward staff ring us and request practice educator teaching input on the ward which is a great achievement.”
Since the practice educators have been in post, over 20 wards have received practice educator input and each area has it’s own dedicated IC ‘Champion’ to sustain IC best practice as the practice educators move on. We are currently working in Accident and Emergency to update and support the staff there. As a direct result of the practice educator role, staff knowledge has improved and rates of infection have decreased. This is a job that is easily transferable to other hospitals and we have shown that it can work in any clinical setting.
The Infection Prevention and Control Nurses team at the Royal Free hospital