Fighting hospital-acquired infections: Don't forget the ED

Hospitalwide initiatives to combat hospital-acquired infections often fail to include the emergency department, a mistake considering the fact that patients are vulnerable to infections there.

The physical constraints of the ED are ripe for the spread of infections because they put patients near one another, a factor made worse when waiting rooms are crowded, notes an article published by Hospitals & Health Networks.

Yet, the ED is often left behind in efforts to prevent hospital-acquired infections, writes Leslie A. Mandel, Ph.D., professor of health administration and public health in the School of Health Sciences at Regis College in Weston, Massachusetts. This is often because many think of the ER as reaction-focused instead of prevention-focused. This thinking needs to change, she says.

“Because EDs have responsibility for the broadest array of hospital patients and conditions, and because they serve as an admission portal, ED leaders and staff must be included in hospital-wide quality improvement efforts,” Mandel writes.

A recent study by researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston looked at 14 ERs in the United States that are involved in initiatives to reduce hospital-acquired infections. Their findings reveal what may motivate ED leaders to embrace these efforts. They suggest hospital executives must:

  • Encourage ED managers to serve as “HAI-prevention champions”
  • Engage frontline ED staff in the initiatives
  • Provide resources for training and monitoring
  • Adapt strategies to meet the unique needs of the ED culture