The Year Infection Preventionists Showed the World Their Worth

The ability to answer questions and explain why just yesterday we were doing something differently than today occurred fairly frequently because of the evolving nature of the pandemic.

The first case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the United States was reported on January 21, 2020.1 A lot has changed since then. People outside of healthcare have become all too familiar with terms usually reserved for epidemiologists and public health professionals such as: pandemic, social distancing, hand hygiene, masking, family pods, antibody tests, and quarantine. Healthcare personnel have also learned a thing or two about all of these terms and much more.

Infection prevention and control (IPC) teams have been thrust to the forefront to guide staff through these challenging times. Sharing their knowledge of personal protective equipment(PPE). Disinfection of medical equipment and patient care spaces, and communicating the ever-evolving changes as more information is gained about SARS- CoV-2. Articles about “lessons learned” and what healthcare providers and hospital systems can expect in the coming months are plentiful. But no one really knows what lies ahead.

Healthcare and the world have been turned on its head. Outside of healthcare, everyday items like toilet paper and paper towels became scarce. In healthcare, things that we took for granted, such as performing our daily tasks of providing patient care and keeping an eye on PPE, disinfectants and cleaners, hospital bed availability, critical medications and equipment, and especially staff, became problematic as supplies proved to be in short supply and infection preventionists (IPs) had to hit the ground running.

COVID-19 demonstrated huge gaps in preparedness worldwide. So, the key “takeaway” is the need for preparation for the upcoming months and into the future. The COVID-19 pandemic is here to stay so we had better learn from it to prepare for the next one because there will be another.