When worn properly, an N95 mask can protect from hazardous airborne particles and help to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, like COVID-19. However, if that mask isn’t tightly sealed on your face, with its straps placed directly against your head (and not over a ball cap or scarf, for example) you, and those around you, won’t be fully protected from germs that can make you sick.
Failing to properly don personal protective equipment (PPE), like the N95 mask, contributed to a COVID-19 outbreak at the Jefferson County Nursing Home in Fayette, Mississippi, early last summer. As a result, Director of Nursing Sandra Sampson immediately assembled a multi-disciplinary quality improvement team that included herself, two infection prevention specialists, a charge nurse and a nurse assistant to determine how to prevent another outbreak.
Their first step was to perform a root cause analysis to know where to focus their Quality Improvement Initiative (QII) efforts. As a result, the team determined that ensuring staff learned how to wear the N95 mask, per safety guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), was a top priority. “We met our goal of fit-testing at least 90% of our staff by February 2023,” Sampson said. Facility employees also reviewed protocols for handwashing with soap and water and using alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
The TMF Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organization (QIN-QIO) provided educational materials, including posters and fact sheets about vaccinations and infection prevention. TMF QIN-QIO specialists also hosted webinars that addressed these topics and allowed caregivers to get direct answers to questions. The Jefferson County Nursing Home team also worked with their TMF specialist to improve how they reported data to the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN).
Additionally, the team started a campaign to boost COVID-19 bivalent vaccine rates for residents and staff. “When we started on August 3, 2022, our residents’ booster rate was 4.2%. On November 27, 2022, we climbed to an 87.8% bivalent vaccine rate,” Sampson reported. The staff bivalent rate also climbed to 38.7%, up from 8.2% at the end of August last year.
While there have been no positive COVID-19 cases since this program began, Sampson said her team learned it was important to continue to observe infection prevention practices and educate frequently — “at least monthly as opposed to quarterly or annually” — to avoid potential lapses in getting vaccinations for the flu, pneumonia and COVID-19. “We want 100% of residents and staff protected from preventable diseases,” Sampson said.