New guide outlines infection prevention tips for EMTS
EMTs face intense challenges and exposure in the field, and must be trained to recognize infectious diseases and prevent their spread
A new guide from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) serves as a reminder to hospital-based infection preventionists that even before emergency department (ED) personnel, there is another group of professionals which faces considerable risks from infectious exposures.
Janet Woodside, RN, MSN, COHN-S, the EMS program manager for the Portland (Ore.) Fire and Rescue, is lead author of APIC's Guide to Infection Prevention in Emergency Medical Services (2013) and reminds us that "Emergency medical services (EMS) system responders deliver medical care in many unique and oftentimes dangerous environments. They render care to increasingly mobile populations who potentially have a higher likelihood of having an infectious or emerging disease. In addition to treating accident victims of every nature (vehicular, falls, cuts, burns, and more), they treat the homeless, nursing home patients, trauma victims, and the critically ill with multiple diseases and infections. They have unique concerns such as suspect searches, communal living arrangements, and the need to clean and disinfect their work equipment. Like many other healthcare professionals, they face ever-increasing exposures to infectious diseases."
According to Woodside, there is a tremendous need for greater awareness of infection prevention practices in EMS, which was a major impetus for the guide being developed by a team of collaborators and published by APIC.
"EMS is behind where hospitals are at in terms of infection prevention and control, and it impacts the daily life of first responders," Woodside says.
Numerous challenges exist, Woodside says, and there is wide variability in the quality of infection prevention instruction offered to EMS personnel.
"It runs the gamut," she says. "Some EMS agencies may have a nurse like myself, but some agencies don't have much guidance at all. In talking to people across the country I discovered that there are things we should be doing and some things that we should not, and that there was a great need for better guidance and risk assessment, since some cities are dialed in and others are not. This guide essentially grew out of talking to a lot of people and identifying common infection prevention and occupational health challenges to address."