Preventing Infection: The Bedside Nurse as Change Agent

Healthcare-associated infections can be a significant complication for patients. Bedside nurses are uniquely suited to lead the change toward better infection prevention and control.“They advocate for the patient because the nurse is at the bedside with them more hours than anyone else is, and they are able to observe what’s going on with the patient,” said Meredith Shellner, infection preventionist with BE Smith, Inc., Kansas City, Missouri.

Shellner presented “Infection Prevention and Control: Critical Role of the Bedside Nurse” on Tuesday. She spoke about the importance of nurse-driven protocols in preventing catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

“It allows the nurse to make decisions about removal of a urinary catheter based on specific criteria that say when it’s okay to leave it in,” she said.

During the session, Shellner also discussed change initiatives to improve hand hygiene and reduce ventilator-associated events/ventilator-associated pneumonia as well as appropriate use of isolation precautions.

Shellner’s presentation was part of AACN’s role in the NICE (Nursing Infection Control Education) network, a grant-funded collaborative project with the American Nurses Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and more than 20 specialty nursing organizations.

Shellner also discussed the importance of compliance with central line care and maintenance procedures and protocols to prevent bloodstream infection. Nurses should “scrub the hub” and speak with the physician every day to determine if the central line is still necessary.

“I want nurses to be the change agent, to develop strategies with other nurses and other members of the healthcare team to prevent infections,” Shellner says. “They really do have the power to make a difference in the lives of their patients.”