Education, Training, and Competencies
Infection control (IC) in the pre-hospital care setting by EMS providers is important to protect themselves and patients receiving emergency care and being transported between healthcare facilities. From 2016-17, LAC Department of Public Health (DPH) collaborated with LAC Emergency Medical Services Agency (EMSA) to assess and improve IC among EMS providers.
DPH/EMSA adapted tools from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designed for healthcare facilities to assess EMS IC policies and practices. Large and small EMS agencies/companies were assessed to ensure a representative sample. Policies were reviewed, and observations made by DPH/EMSA nurses during ride alongs in >2 ambulances per provider.
Fourteen providers were assessed. Eleven had a designated infection control officer (DICO). Thirteen had written IC policies; 12 reviewed and updated them annually. All required IC training for new staff, but only 59% assessed skills post-training and 31% audited across four IC topics. Twelve had written policies for cleaning/disinfection. Twelve had a policy for influenza vaccination; however, the median vaccination rate was only 55% (range 1-99%). Observations showed handwashing occurred before patient contact for 7% of assessments, glove use in 100% and hand hygiene after removing gloves in 79%. Staff cleaned the ambulance after each patient encounter; cleaning high touch surfaces in 79% and replaced cleaners/disinfectants when appropriate in 89%.
EMS providers are an important part of the healthcare system as they transport patients in and out of hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Overall, findings were encouraging, but ensuring up-to-date policies for all areas of IC, monitoring competencies, and observing practices to assess adherence may improve IC. In 2018, LAC hosted an IC train-the-trainer course for DICOs to bring proper IC practices back to their agencies/companies. LAC DPH and EMSA will continue to work with EMS providers to improve IC policies and practices.