Catherine Grayson

Openness and observation lead to stand-out infection prevention success

Catherine Grayson, RN, MSN, CIC
Medical Center of McKinney
McKinney, TX

Over the past 20 years, Cathy Grayson’s practical, open approach to infection prevention has generated a steady stream of infection prevention successes. Whether she’s identifying and tackling outbreaks, introducing new practices or eliminating common healthcare-associated infections, Grayson’s philosophy is the same: “Do your research. Find out what others have done and what’s worked,” she said. “When possible, leverage best practices before reinventing the wheel.”

A recent contact-precautions improvement trial provides an ideal example of her approach. “It was based on a study conducted by another healthcare system,” she said. “Healthcare staff could safety enter a ‘red box’ area in patient rooms without putting on protective gear. This saved time and improved patient communication. I wanted to try it.” After securing administrative buy-in, Grayson trialed the program for three months, adapting processes to assure positive outcomes. In the end, the red box – which Grayson’s hospital adapted to a ‘red line’ – improved compliance with personal protective equipment, enhanced patient communication, reduced cost, and prompted dialogue.

“I try to ensure our infection prevention strategies work in real-life scenarios,” said Grayson. “I trial new ideas. I round and talk to staff constantly, gathering feedback and measuring buy-in.” 

Grayson also encourages infection preventionists to speak up whenever they notice a pattern that appears abnormal. In 2008, she observed patients becoming sick after using pre-filled heparin syringes. She contacted her County Health Department, prompting them to join a national investigation that soon identified a Serratia marcescens outbreak resulting from contaminated syringes. Working with the Health Department, Grayson helped stop the outbreak locally. The department later honored Grayson with a Public Health Advocate Award in recognition of her observation, initiative, and collaboration.

“You can’t do this job in a silo,” Grayson said. “APIC peers are among our best resources. Talk to them, find out what’s working and see if it will work for you too.”