Starting from scratch to achieve success
Patti Bull was working in the Hendrick Medical Center (HMC) microbiology lab 20 years ago when she decided to take on the hospital’s infection prevention coordinator position. “In microbiology, I was helping one patient at a time,” she said. “Through infection prevention, I saw I could really impact many people.”
The infection prevention function Bull stepped into had languished, becoming nearly non-existent to patients and staff. The prior coordinator was gone, leaving no one to train Bull. Adding to the list of challenges, Bull was immediately tasked with submitting required data to the National Nosocomial Infections Surveillance System (NNIS, now known as the National Healthcare Safety Network). Rather than discouraged, she was energized by the potential of her position.
“I found materials in the former coordinator’s office and used them to learn about my function,” said Bull. “I reached out to the many content experts right here in my hospital.” Bull also attended NNIS data-submission training and began networking with other infection preventionists (IPs). “It is incredibly helpful and important to learn from other IPs,” she said.
From this humble beginning, Bull morphed HMC’s Infection Prevention department into a thriving, well-respected function, characterized by innovation and success.
Bull’s pursuit of zero healthcare-associated infections is a prime example. She continually evaluates new products and processes, then leverages evidence to lobby for those she believes will have an impact. In 2003, Bull began pushing for HMC to obtain electronic surveillance technology. “I was a solo practitioner spending a lot of time culling through data,” she said. “I wanted the big picture to find problems and solutions. I saw an electronic surveillance demonstration at the APIC conference and decided this was the missing piece.” Two years later, HMC became the first hospital in Texas to adopt electronic surveillance involving the Nosocomial Infection Marker.
“Find your allies, make your case and keep slugging at it,” said Bull. “Don’t forget that protecting patients and saving lives is our ultimate goal.”