Educating clients about infection prevention and control in remote regions across Ontario
Watch Lori talk about her work.
Public Health Ontario’s (PHO) work extends across the province through the work of 14 regional infection control networks and 10 laboratory sites. Regional staff supports clients and partners across Ontario, from densely populated urban areas in the South to remote communities in the North. Much of this work includes collaboration with local health care practitioners and other partners. Lori Schatzler, an infection control consultant from Sudbury, recently travelled across Ontario to work with Health Canada and First Nations’ communities on environmental cleaning best practices for infection prevention and control (IPAC).
“We take best practice recommendations from PHO and the Provincial Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee (PIDAC) and bring them to life with our stakeholders,” said Schatzler, who came to PHO in 2013. In the past year, Schatzler and 11 other PHO IPAC team members were invited by Health Canada’s First Nations Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) to facilitate workshops on environmental cleaning and infection prevention and control. Eleven events directed toward community health centre directors and environmental cleaning staff were held across mostly Northern Ontario, in places like Sioux Lookout and Fort Albany.
“We were invited to facilitate in-person sessions because previously held videoconferencing sessions weren’t working,” said Schatzler. “We had helped Health Canada develop a manual on environmental cleaning, incorporating PIDAC best practices guidelines, on which the initial videoconferencing sessions were based. But participants told us that what they really needed was in-person training to translate and apply the materials, where they could ask questions and share information, and we could do hands-on demonstrations.”
The importance of local participation was often reinforced by elders, who opened with a prayer or smudging ceremony. The first day focused on the core competencies of infection prevention and control, and Schatzler and others presented on key concepts such as the chain of transmission, risk assessment, hand hygiene and use of personal protective equipment. The second day focused on hands-on aspects, including discussions about cleaning products in health care facilities, methods of cleaning, and group work sessions.
“Ensuring that environmental cleaning staff understands and applies the principles of infection prevention and control helps to reduce health care-associated infections in community clinics,” explained Schatzler. Each clinic is different in terms of how they are set up and staffed. Some contract cleaning staff. Some community health centres might also function as multi-use event centres. So it’s critical to train the staff on how to implement best practices in a range of situations.”
Schatzler said these workshops were unique and rewarding for all. “In the north, our geography is so large. The only way to get to some communities is by flying in. So for us to be a part of workshops that brought community clinic staffs from remote areas together, and for them to identify and share common concerns and questions, was incredibly rewarding. We were thrilled at the positive feedback we received from participants who appreciated the in-person training, and we are confident they will be able to take this knowledge back to their own communities and be leaders in IPAC practices.” Participants echoed this: “[The workshop] gave me perspective on cleaning/procedures on protecting clients and staff (myself included). This is especially helpful in thinking about flu season,” said one participant. Another said, “Being given the opportunity to come and learn makes me THINK, THINK, THINK! Change cleaning practices.”
“The great thing about doing this kind of work is that we are able to take PHO knowledge and bring it directly to clients,” said Schatzler, who, prior to PHO, worked as a registered and occupational health nurse in community clinic and public heath settings in Ontario and Michigan. “Working in the field allows us to be part of a great feedback loop—we incorporated feedback from each workshop into the next, and further brought that feedback to colleagues at PHO in order to improve and inform products and services. We look forward to being a continued partner and resource to Health Canada and Ontario’s First Nations communities, to continue the dialogues on environmental cleaning best practices and other infection prevention and control topics.”