Infection prevention programs need 66% more staffing

Infection preventionist and relative support staffing levels need to be 31 to 66 percent higher for healthcare organizations to sustain an effective infection prevention program, according to a study published in the May 2018 issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.


In the study, researchers from the Providence St. Joseph Health System in Renton, Washington, surveyed infection prevention (IP) teams in 34 hospitals, 583 ambulatory sites and 26 in-home and long-term care programs across five states. The tracked required infection prevention activities, type of activity, frequency, hours per activity and total number of location where each activity occurred.

“Increased state reporting requirements and initiatives, movement from targeted to whole-house surveillance, and expansion of IP scope outside of the hospital walls has left the hospital IP without the resources necessary to ensure safe practices within their facility,” wrote first author Rebecca Bartles, MPH, CIC, FAPIC, and colleagues. “With this awareness has come the need for guidance on how to effectively determine staffing needs for IP programs, across all care settings.”

The actual labor need required to run and maintain an effective infection prevention program needs to be 31 to 66 percent higher than current benchmarks per 100 beds.

“When diving deeper, the actual demand for IP services is significantly higher than even the highest staffing ratio benchmark, revealing a gap of which most IPs are acutely aware,” concluded Bartles and colleagues. “All available peer-reviewed literature presents staffing as a ratio of IPs to inpatient beds, which does not take into account the complex nature of the work and the varying degree of acuity and risk in different care settings. Because of the lack of a quantitative methodology in the literature for determining IP staffing needs based on actual services required, many health care organizations are still staffing to an antiquated, insufficient standard, with many staffed below even this mark.”