Infection Prevention department staff members (l-r): Betsy Sanchez, QISS support analyst; Richard Martinello, MD, director; and Donna Nucci, RN, infection preventionist. The department works with employees throughout YNHH to protect patients and staff against a variety of infections.

"Everyone at Yale New Haven Hospital has a role in keeping our patients, visitors and staff safe and free of healthcare-acquired infections," said Richard Martinello, MD, medical director of Infection Prevention, the department previously called Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control.

Infection Prevention, a section of Quality Improvement Support Services (QISS), focuses on preventing healthcare-acquired infections in patients, staff and visitors. The department's priorities are central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs), catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs), hand hygiene, C. difficile and surgical site infections.

Other QISS staff involved in these efforts include support analysts who monitor healthcare-acquired infections and microbiology and virology results to identify conditions requiring isolation. Infection preventionists provide expert consultation and education and steer performance improvement efforts throughout all YNHH facilities.

Infection Prevention staff aim to understand patients at risk for developing infections. Collaborating with employees throughout the hospital, they have successfully decreased healthcare-acquired infection rates. Betsy Sanchez, support analyst, emphasized the importance of accurate data, which support initiatives to improve patient outcomes, along with teamwork, within QISS and with external departments.

"Communication to staff is critical," added Donna Nucci, RN, infection preventionist. "We need to get messages about emerging illnesses and steps to prevent infections out to 13,000 employees and more than 100 care sites. That is a big challenge."

One key message: Infection prevention starts with performing hand hygiene before and after interaction with patients and their medical equipment. "Nearly everything we do in the healthcare setting may impact a patient's risk for developing an infection," Dr. Martinello said. "We need to ensure that we get fundamental practices, such as hand hygiene, right every time."

For patients who contract rare, serious, communicable infections outside the hospital, Dr. Martinello and his team are working with Victor Morris, MD, associate chief medical officer, and the Yale New Haven Health System Center for Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response to develop the High Impact Pathogen plan (HIP). This plan focuses on pathogens such as Ebola and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and details actions YNHH will follow to ensure the best and safest care.

"Everyone on our team is passionate about better understanding and preventing infections, and works every day to create a safer environment for patients and staff," said Dr. Martinello. "We are successful when patients receive the care they need and do not develop any infectious complications, so they can focus on their recovery and improving their health."

Staff are encouraged to contact Infection Prevention with questions. Office hours are Monday-Friday 7:30 am – 4 pm; an infection preventionist is available after hours for urgent questions.