Making a Difference on Front Lines of Patient Safety
Helen Ahlbrecht, RN, GNP, CIC
St. Rose Dominican Hospital
Helen Ahlbrecht, a 35-year nurse practitioner who specializes in geriatric care, was recognized for her contributions in the field of infection prevention.
With more than three decades of nursing and infection prevention under her belt, Ahlbrecht, a geriatric nurse practitioner and infection preventionists (IP), is one of 46 nurse practitioners who work with a team of physicians.
"I’m in a very peculiar situation," said Mrs. Ahlbrecht. "I’m unlike the normal IP in that I’m not employed by a hospital or long-term care facility. I collaborate with physicians in the long-term care arena and have prescription writing privileges."
When she started working with the elderly, there were six nurse practitioners working in long-term care or assisted living facilities. The numbers have increased eight-fold since then, but Helen is the only one of the group who focused on infection prevention. In the description of her recognition award she was cited for "improving the quality of life for facility residents" and for having trained "hundreds of infection control nurses and directors of nursing in the five-state area."
Chosen to be part of a visionary, comprehensive program for long-term care facilities, "I used my clinical experience and passion to change infection control and prevention in long-term care facilities to help the program succeed. Through teaching and consultation, I feel we have made a difference in infection prevention in our assisted living and long-term care facilities."
A frequent attendant at APIC national conferences, Helen used to do a lot a teaching for the institution. Her selection as a Hero, for which she was "deeply honored," came at the precise moment she was retiring. "It’s so wonderful being selected…you never dream that anyone will recognize you. In order to be recognized you need to be part of an organization like APIC," she said. "That’s where you feel the rewards of your work."