Meet the Heroes - Ruby P. Bowen


Ruby P. Bowen Continuous improvement in the delivery of care and infection prevention

Ruby P. Bowen, MSPH, MT, CIC
Palmetto Health Baptist Hospital
Columbia, South Carolina

Ruby P. Bowen, MSPH, MT, CIC, of Palmetto Health Baptist in Columbia, SC, was recognized for her vast experience in infection prevention issues at Columbia Behavioral Health System, where she and her colleagues succeeded in reducing "sharps" injuries from 18 a year to three a year. A multidisciplinary Failure Mode Effect Analysis team, facilitated by Bowen, took a look at the many needles, syringes and sharps containers currently on the market, tested them, and chose only those that passed the rigorous tests.

"During the tabletop exercises, we tried very hard to make the products fail," Bowen said. "If they didn't perform as they should, they would not be used on our patients."

Selecting the right products was only part of the solution: "After choosing products with enhanced safety features, we implemented an education program on how to use the products and included it as part of the annual competency training for nurses."

Bowen has been a medical professional for over 30 years, most of that time with the Columbia Behavioral Health System, which is part of the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. She was a microbiologist and worked in the field of performance improvement before becoming an infection preventionist (IP) 16 years ago. Bowen has a Master of Science Degree in Public Health/Epidemiology.

Bowen was in the process of retiring when she received an offer from Palmetto Health Baptist, also in Columbia. "So I retired April 30, 2006 and began working for Palmetto Health Baptist in May."

"Retirement" for Bowen simply means shifting her focus from a behavioral health institution to an acute care hospital. At Palmetto Health Baptist, Bowen is one of two IPs working with the medical director in the 500-bed hospital.

"I intend to remain in this field," said Ruby, while reflecting on the various professional roles she's held over three decades. "I like it a lot...better than any job I've ever had. What I like most is being out on the floors, meeting with people and impacting patient and staff safety."