A Day in the (Current) Life of an ASC Infection Preventionist More responsibilities and more stress in the changed world of COVID-19 BY TAMMERIA TYLER, RN

My, how things have changed in a year. Last year, some of my biggest concerns were check- ing to see if any of our

patients had acquired a surgical site infection (SSI), monitoring hand hygiene among the staff, physicians and vendors and observing what was going on in the surgical area itself. None of that has changed. The addition of COVID-19, however, has created a whole new world. Now, my morning begins with scan- ning the latest literature on COVID-19 to see if any procedures currently in place need to be updated due to new findings. What is the latest information that I need to pass on, and what, if any, revisions are needed to our infection prevention pandemic policy. Adjust- ments to the risk assessment might also be needed depending on current recommendations and the latest num- bers from the state health department. An infection preventionist cannot

live in a bubble in this world. We have to be out there auditing the processes that are put in place, always observ- ing to be sure that everything is being done to ensure the safety and well- being of others, whether they like it or not. We have to explain multiple times why the family cannot come back or turn a patient away to be rescheduled due to some symptoms of COVID-19, although they assure us that “it is just a summer cold” or “allergies.” At one time, we might have taken that chance but not now. It just is not worth the risk.

The unfortunate side effect is that

now, not only am I the hand hygiene enforcer but the mask enforcer, as well.

My life as an infection preventionist has changed. There is more stress and responsibility, most of which I have placed on myself. I would not trade it for the world.”

— Tammeria Tyler, RN Southeastern Spine Institute Ambulatory Surgery Center

I have had to learn how to politely say “please cover both your mouth and nose with your mask while in the facil- ity to protect yourself and others” despite the fact that this instruction was given at the screening desk. I have to remind staff to socially distance and that “yes, I know these coworkers are like your family, but they are not, so you do have to keep your mask on.” Most infection preventionists in

ASCs have more than just this job. They are staff nurses with quality and employee health added to their plate. Time and education are at a premium, but they are well worth it.

With COVID-19 added to the mix on infection concerns inside ASCs, cen- ters should support their preventionist in the pursuit of certification. You can be sure that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will be looking more closely into this. With furloughs and layoffs of staff within the physicians’ offices, the infection preventionist must be even more diligent in tracking patients to monitor for SSIs. A two-pronged approach that includes inquiry letters to the patients as well as surveys to the physicians might help to cover the entire population. While COVID-19 is in the forefront of many peoples’ minds, we cannot allow one of our pri- mary objectives to fall by the wayside. We can always improve our pro- cesses. One way to do this is to ask oth- ers to help. They might think of some- thing the infection preventionist has not and can help to monitor policies and guidelines. The infection prevention- ist is not the Little Red Hen, although sometimes it might feel that way. Set goals. My goal is that everyone who comes into the facility gets opti- mal care while staff and physicians remain COVID-19 free. Lofty, I agree, especially in a state where we have had a surge in cases.

My life as an infection prevention- ist has changed. There is more stress and responsibility, most of which I have placed on myself. I would not trade it for the world.

Tammeria Tyler, RN, is an infection preventionist at Southeastern Spine Institute Ambulatory Surgery Center in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Write her at

The advice and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not represent official Ambulatory Surgery Center Association policy or opinion. ASC FOCUS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2020| 19

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