Marlene Fishman Wolpert

Creating champions to expand infection prevention reach and impact

Marlene Fisherman Wolpert, MPH, CIC
St. Joseph Health Services of RI
Providence, RI

Infection preventionists (IPs) worldwide face a common challenge: Improving and maintaining patient safety with limited staff and resources. By engaging staff at every level, Marlene Fishman Wolpert essentially expanded her infection prevention staff by hundreds and dramatically improved patient safety at her North Providence, RI facilities.

When she took on the IP role at Our Lady of Fatima Hospital and St. Joseph Hospital for Specialty Care, Fishman Wolpert was a single practitioner overseeing two 250-bed campuses. “I realized I couldn’t do it all,” she said. “I had to focus on high-risk targets.”

She looked for simple infection prevention programs that would generate the greatest return on patient safety. “In 2006, facilities were documenting infection prevention successes with CLABSI and VAP prevention bundles,” said Fishman Wolpert. “I decided we could implement a simple, general bundle.”

The bundle she chose comprised three compliance elements – hand hygiene, clean and disinfected equipment, and isolation attire. “It’s as Easy as 1, 2, 3” became a relentlessly recurring theme, emphasized in nursing orientations, International Infection Prevention Week celebrations, and other educational programs. “People really understood that all three practices are linked to infection prevention,” said Fishman Wolpert.

Hand hygiene compliance rates soon rose to more than 90 percent. Fishman Wolpert engaged staff passionate about infection prevention to help address the remaining two bundle components. An interdisciplinary team launched a “Think Pink” campaign to ensure clean equipment use: Hot pink tags designated equipment “ready for use” and continuous, creative “pink” programming drove hospital-wide recognition.
Fishman Wolpert then enlisted front-line representatives from each floor, as well as housekeeping, medical staff, and administration, to create an Isolation Attire Compliance Team (I ACT). Members wear an “I ACT” badge with pre-scripted comments that help reinforce correct technique. Their leadership generated more than 90 percent compliance on two targeted floors.

“I want everyone here to own their role in preventing infection and keeping patients safe,” she said.