Checking into an unfamiliar hospital can be an overwhelming task, especially in an era where medical threats are seemingly everywhere. From COVID-19 to MRSA infections, and everything in between, maintaining and understanding infection prevention is an integral aspect of any healthcare organization.
Without effective Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) it is impossible to achieve quality health care delivery. IPC aims to prevent pathogens being passed from one person to another. This effect was on global display during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Handwashing, universal masking, physical distancing, and other tactics were used to prevent the transmission of the disease. The same protocols need to be in place in a hospital setting as the concerns of sharing pathogens is high.
Recognizing a need of infection prevention strategies practiced during an admission and providing guidance on how to practice infection prevention as an inpatient, resulted in the Lebanon VA creating a new volunteer position of an Infection Prevention (IP) Ambassador.
Brenda Hoffman, RN is Lebanon’s first IP Ambassador. Brenda is a Veteran and retired nurse who, when looking for volunteer opportunities, was invited to share her skills in this novel position. As the IP Ambassador, Brenda visits newly admitted Veterans in acute care, short stay rehab and the Community Living Center (CLC). During her visit she not only welcomes the Veteran to our care, but also shares information on infection prevention strategies practiced such as hand hygiene, masking, cleaning and glove and gown use. She reminds the Veteran of their responsibility to participate in their care by cleaning their hands, staying up to date with their recommended vaccines and knowing that we encourage antibiotic stewardship.
“You know, I am a retired nurse,” said Brenda, “so this all very fun for me and a chance to keep my nursing and people skills sharp!”
Brenda also serves as a trusted liaison between the staff and Veterans by bringing concerns from the Veterans to the IP team, allowing the team to respond appropriately and timely. She helps to provide an extra set of eyes on each unit she serves by observing the actions of Veterans and staff and making recommendations as to how operations could be more efficient, effective, and safe.
“All in all, Brenda serves a very important role within our community,” said Theresa Haley, BS MLS (ASCP) CIC, LTC-CIP, Infection Preventionist. “Feedback from Veterans and staff indicate she brings a positive and effective experience to our team. Based on this success, we look forward to opportunities to expand and enhance our Veterans inpatient experience.”
Building trust is the core of any treatment plan between providers and Veterans. IP Ambassadors provide an excellent opportunity to build that foundation. If you are interested in bringing your skills and abilities to volunteer with the Lebanon VA Medical Center, please reach out to Voluntary Services Office at 717-228-6123, or VHALebVoluntaryService@va.gov.