Carolyn Williams, RN, has spearheaded comprehensive infectious-disease (ID) prevention and education programs that are protecting the health of 7,000 municipal workers in the city of Portland.
Williams’ responsibilities encompass the full spectrum of municipal ID prevention, from managing and implementing city-wide immunization and needlestick prevention programs to conducting department risk assessments and evaluating waste-water management systems. Her constituents range from lifeguards and daycare staff to police officers, the latter of whom absorb about 80 percent of her time. “Police officers are a very complex population from an ID standpoint,” she said. “They’re exposed to a lot of people on a daily basis. Bloodborne pathogens are a big risk.”
Williams’ primary strategy for protecting her diverse population is education. In 2012, she taught 45 infection prevention classes to almost 1,900 city employees. “I’ve learned that the information has to be understandable and fact based,” she said. “The police officers, in particular, always want evidence. They say, ‘Show me.’”
Motivated by this need as well as her years of experience in nursing and infection prevention, Williams spearheaded the development of the Guide to Infection Prevention in Emergency Medical Services, a free APIC implementation guide now available to emergency medical services (EMS) and public safety personnel nationwide.
“A group of us agreed we needed an ‘on the street’ guide in addition to the well-written APIC chapter on this topic,” said Williams, who serves as national chairperson of the EMS/Public Safety section of APIC. “There wasn’t a lot of evidence-based literature on this topic, but many, many people contributed and I’m very proud of the result.”
Williams is a believer in the power of collaboration among infection prevention professionals. “I’m a one-person office working with limited resources; most municipal nurses are,” she said. “We need to create networks so that our populations can benefit from other perspectives.”