I suppose if you were involved in a fraternity or sorority during university or college the title of today’s blog could have a different meaning…. For the purposes of Infection Control Week, I want to use “rushing” in its literal sense: to move with urgent haste. Whether it’s at work or at home we’ve all experienced that feeling of being rushed. There’s not enough time in the day to get your work done so you rush through projects without investing enough time to do as good of a job as you like. At home, if you have kids you’re probably like me, rushing (aka speeding while driving) to basketball practice, swimming lessons, hockey or trying to squeeze in time to get homework done (aka doing more than you probably should).
The fact that rushing leads to cutting corners is nothing new. It is this fact however, that unwittingly puts our facilities or our staff on the road to catastrophe. One example of this is cutting staffing rates in an attempt to maintain profitability. The unintended consequences of this is people taking on additional responsibilities for which they were not trained or people start omitting tasks they perceive as non-critical just to keep up with their overburdened workload. From an infection control perspective this will lead to the breakdown in our programs and will ultimately increase the likelihood of HAIs or outbreaks.
Many IP’s are tasked with or are part of a team that works together to choose what disinfectants will be used. This task can be daunting. There are literally hundreds of products to choose from, and how do you decide what characteristics (safety, speed, efficacy etc.) you are looking for in a disinfectant? To take some of your stress away, I had written a blog Disinfectant Selection Made Easy. The premise of this blog being that the selection of a disinfectant really can be made as simple as tabling out the desired traits of a disinfectant and adding any criteria that is specific to the needs of your facility. You can in turn develop a rating system that allows you to more objectively look at the overall picture and how the product answers your needs. Developing a matrix such as the one we developed can help reduce the anxiety over picking a product.
From a staffing perspective for housekeeping, we must keep in mind that cleaning takes time. Cutting time, cutting staff and/or cutting training programs can and will lead to disaster. We need to invest the time in looking at the ROI of effective cleaning and disinfection. Have you considered what impact cutting staff would have on errors, on customer retention, on longevity of equipment, on employee retention or on lost time due to grievances from ineffective supervision? If you spend the time, you’ll find that it leads to more efficient practices, reduced HAIs and reduced employee absenteeism. Spending time looking at how to improve cleaning and disinfection, be it through compliance monitoring, training programs or new methods of cleaning (e.g. use of disposable wipes), may in fact save you money in the long run. Not only will you save money, but you’ll likely avoid outbreaks or other medical errors that land you on the front page of your local newspaper or the headline for the evening news.
It’s easy to slash 10% from a budget. We know the cost of our staffing budgets, our chemical budgets etc., however, being short-sighted and focusing only on cutting costs can mean we do not protect our interests and are putting ourselves at risk to mistakes happening which can and will result in phenomenally high and unpredictable "unknown costs."
Since no one wants to have to justify why we went over budget, look at the practice of choosing disinfectants in your facility. Do you have a formal procedure? Look at the number of staff and your cleaning compliance rates. If you do not have a formal procedure for choosing products and your cleaning compliance is low or your HAIs have increased, it may have nothing to do with apathy of your cleaning staff or the products you are using. Recognize that it may have to do with rushing.