Daniels named 2019 APIC Hero of Infection

Published 9:16 am Friday, July 5, 2019

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) announced the recipients of the Heroes of Infection Prevention Award, which honors infection preventionists who have successfully helped to reduce infection, raise awareness, and improve the health and well-being of patients, health care workers, and the public.

Teresa Daniels, director of infection prevention and employee health at Clark Regional Medical Center and Bourbon Community Hospital, was one of six nationwide recognized for her achievements.

She dramatically improved patient safety at Clark Regional by creating a novel program that educates and engages environmental services (EVS) staff.

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Barbara Kinder, CCO of Clark Regional, said  Clark Regional is lucky to have someone as dedicated as Daniels to keeping patients safe.

“She goes above and beyond as evidenced by her willingness to continue her education,” Kinder said.

When Daniels joined Clark Regional Medical Center as an infection preventionist in 2010, the facility was struggling to contain healthcare-associated Clostridioides difficile infection (HA-CDI) rates.

Isolation and hand hygiene interventions had little impact.

“It dawned on me, ‘What about Environmental Services?” Daniels said. “When I asked EVS staff about infection prevention practices, I often heard, ‘I don’t know, I’m just a housekeeper.’ I had to make them part of the health care team. Without a clean environment, infection prevention is not going to succeed.”

Daniels started by hosting a lunch and learn for EVS staff.

“I thought if I empowered them through education, they would understand their impact on patient safety so things could change,” she said.

Convinced she was on the right track, Daniels developed an educational program focusing on environmental surfaces contamination, multidrug-resistant organisms, high-touch cleaning, and terminal cleaning.

“We used CDC environmental surfaces cleaning guidelines and APIC guidelines,” Daniels said.

HA-CDI rates fell the following year dramatically. When Daniels initiated the program at a second hospital, their HA-CDI rate fell to zero.

Based on these successes, Daniels collaborated with her EVS team to create a three-level ladder program, focused on continuing education, certification and performance improvement.

To expand awareness about the importance of EVS in patient safety, Daniels recommended statewide “train-the-trainer” training for EVS staff to the Kentucky Hospital Association and the Association for the Health Care Environment.

In 2018 Daniels hosted the first statewide training in the U.S. for Certified Healthcare Environmental Services Technicians (T-CHEST).

“It has been so fulfilling to watch EVS staff embrace their patient safety role, and to see hospital leadership embrace their role as well,” Daniels said.

Aphreikah DuHaney-West, CEO of Clark Regional, said Daniel’s dedication to patient safety had had such a positive impact on the hospital’s patients and staff.

“Our top priority is patient safety, and Teresa’s passion and dedication for infection prevention is contagious,” Duhaney-West said. “We’re lucky to have her as part of our team and helping Clark Regional in making communities healthier.”