Interview with a new generation of infection prevention specialists
In part two of interviews with infection prevention and control (IPC) specialists, Health Quality & Safety Commission IPC specialist, Dr Ruth Barratt, talked with new IPC specialists Caroline de Villiers, clinical nurse specialist IPC, Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand Hauora a Toi Bay of Plenty, and Lisa Olsen, Infection Prevention and Control Southern Cross Brightside Hospital.
What are the most, and least, enjoyable parts of your job as a new IPC practitioner?
The most enjoyable part of my job is knowing that we can make a tangible difference in patients’ outcomes by keeping them safe.
Although I don’t have a least enjoyable part yet, the on-call requirements during Covid-19 were brutal at times. I had to be confident in what I was telling people, so I had to make sure my knowledge was current. Like many others, my phone rang dozens of times a day and night.
I love the part of my role that involves following up with patients as part of post-discharge surgical site infection surveillance. At a time when there are staffing shortages and cutbacks, people really appreciate a simple text and check in.
As an IPCN in a private hospital working across all departments, I enjoy supporting each team so they can provide best practice infection prevention and control.
I don’t really have a least enjoyable part of my job.
What has been difficult and what has helped you in your role?
The learning during the pandemic has been steep. I’m an IPC CNS in a small hospital, and found I needed to be the expert on everything from COVID patient and staff exposures to occupational health and wastewater testing. There was a big focus on education, which I have tried to keep going since.
I became a new IPC nurse at the beginning of 2022. I knew stepping into the role there would be challenges around Covid 19, but no sooner had I started the Omicron wave arrived. Learning my role, getting to know the different teams and staff as well as leading our hospital’s Omicron response was challenging, but I think this time has set me up well to work in my role.
Being new to a role there are always questions, so knowing there is a wealth of knowledge and experience within our IPC network is always reassuring.
Any tips for brand new IPC practitioners just starting out?
The biggest tip I can give is to make yourself visible. Your workplace colleagues need to know you exist and you’re happy to help.
Read, read, read.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s important to be visible and present for the different teams you support.
What would you like to see for a future IPC service in Aotearoa New Zealand?
We’re such a small country, I’d really like to see regular communication with someone from every service present, and to promote IPC everywhere as a key specialty.
It would be nice to be properly recognised nationally as experts and IPC actively involved in decisions and strategies affecting staff and patients.
I’d also love to see a close relationship with public health as there is often an overlap from community to hospital and involve our private sector colleagues as they have so much to contribute.
I think the future’s bright for IPC.