DENTAL PRACTICE ARTICLES
Does Your Office Have an Infection Control Committee or Representative?
Everyone knows that infection control is the responsibility of all dental office staff. Patients and employees are only safe from infectious processes when everyone consistently follows good infection control techniques. The purpose of the Infection Control Program (IPAC) is not to reduce the individual responsibility that each healthcare provider has, but to provide leadership for all employees throughout the office. Through policies, procedures, and evaluation processes, the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) or Health and Safety Representative (HSR) must act as a central contact point for all infection control information and channel that information in a manner that will create the safest environment.
It is recommended to select a clinical staff member to become the Infection Control Representative to be the contact person for the JHSC or HSR. The Infection Control Representative would be responsible to maintain written IPAC infection control procedures, which should be available to all employees. The JHSC or HSR would provide guidance for the prevention of incidents through other established informational channels within the dental office, such as staff meetings. When problems arise, the committee should provide specific direction to a department or departments that details corrective actions that are deemed necessary. The JHSC should meet regularly, and maintain copies of the meeting minutes. If a Ministry inspector does comes to your office, provide him/her with a copy of the minutes.
The purpose of the IPAC Infection Control Committee or Representative is simple; to prevent and control infection. The Infection Control Committee is designed to provide clear direction to help everyone create and maintain a safe environment. When writing your procedures, determine which areas require only cleaning and which require disinfection. Train staff on the difference between cleaning and disinfection. Audit the disinfection and cleaning systems and make changes as needed. Once you have chosen the cleaners and disinfectants, ensure that staff read and follow all label directions. If you have questions, contact the chemical manufacturer.
Planning: Successful prevention and control of infection requires careful planning. The IPAC Infection Control Committee should be actively involved with the planning and implementation of new procedures that pose a potential infection control risk. For example, provide guidance for the implementation of a new procedure. Its role in the planning process is to examine the proposal, identify potential areas of concern, and recommend a course of action that provides the best method of infection control.
The Committee also may provide input into the selection of chemicals used to manage the environment, such as detergents and disinfectants. It may also provide input into the selection of equipment used to process instruments and accessories.
Monitoring: The IPAC Infection Control Committee also monitors infectious processes within the dental office. They track infections and incidents that have the potential to cause infections. They review infection control statistics in an effort to minimize risk, identify problem areas, and implement corrective actions.
When infections do occur, the Committee should undertake investigations to determine the cause of the problem and recommends the necessary education or changes in protocols.
Evaluating: Along with monitoring specific incidents, the IPAC Infection Control Committee also looks at the bigger picture as it continually strives to improve processes within the facility. This is demonstrated by the regular review of infection control procedures for all departments. The IPAC Committee may also be called upon to evaluate practices and provide input regarding products and protocols.
Updating: Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that all IPAC Infection Control Committees face is keeping current. The constant advancement of medical technology introduces changes at all levels within the dental office, new bacterial strains complicate and challenge older infection control practices, and new research often requires re-examination of established procedures. The IPAC Infection Control Committee’s purpose is to provide guidance and leadership through these changes. This requires that all members of the team strive to keep abreast of changes within their area of expertise. By keeping current, they can assist the Committee as it works to manage its facility’s infection control policy.
Educating: Finally, as an integral part of its leadership, the IPAC Committee must take an active role in staff education. The education process should address at least two specific areas. The first area should be that of general infection control education. This is usually accomplished through an annual education program designed for all employees. This program is designed to provide the groundwork for general infection control protocols, which create a safe environment for both patients and employees. Information such as standard blood borne pathogen education, etc. is covered in these programs.
The second educational need that the IPAC Infection Control Committee addresses is the need for updating. In the constantly changing healthcare arena, the Committee must find a way to communicate changes and updates to the other staff members. This is usually done through staff meetings, or published Committee communications like meeting minutes. Whatever the method, the goal must be to create a smooth flow of information to all employees. Both of these educational roles should focus on creating awareness of infection control and developing the appropriate skills necessary to function effectively on the job.