For infection control nurses, the little things make a difference - from the microscopic germs seeking to wreak havoc to the incremental steps taken to prevent or contain them.

That's why Anna Lagahit, a nurse and Infection Control Practitioner at Kindred Hospital Santa Ana, goes out of her way to recognize hospital staff for doing the little things to prevent hospital-acquired infections. Staff might receive a "you made a difference today" card from Anna for something as routine as wiping a patient's table or IV machine, keeping catheter lines off the floor or ensuring the cleanliness of everything from the patient to the bed to the area between the bed and bathroom.

"I am a resource to remind nurses and staff that they are protecting not only the patients but themselves and their families when they go home," she said.

Anna joined Kindred Hospital Santa Ana in 2011. Prior to that, she had worked for two decades in two countries as a bedside nurse, beginning in 1991 in her native Philippines and on to the U.S. in 2007 as an Oncology RN.

The care and compassion required in nursing quickly grew on Anna.

"It's like a fulfillment that you are able to help patients as best as you can, and it's good to see them recover," she said. "Even when they don't recover, you are there to help the family. Being a bedside nurse is different - you are there for them during their hard times."

anna1As an infection control nurse, Anna isn't as "hands on" as a bedside nurse - she's often more focused on everyone else's hands. Anna identifies and investigates hospital-acquired infections, gives recommendations on how to prevent or stop the spread of such infections, and makes rounds in the hospital to ensure procedures are followed to prevent and counter infections. One such procedure is another of those little things, making sure staff "gel in and gel out" - sanitizing their hands before and after they see a patient. 

While this type of nursing differs from the bedside, Anna says the end goal is the same.

"In healthcare, you only have one purpose in going to work every day, and that's to make sure that at the end of the day your patients are safe, away from harm," she said. "If I do that, I will be able to sleep good at night."

In her first year at Santa Ana, she helped a lot of staff sleep better as her efforts helped raise the building's hand compliance rate from 32% to 90% and dramatically lower its hospital-acquired infection rate.

Her more recent contribution, as an infection control mentor in Kindred's W.I.N. program (a mentorship initiative to guide new staff in W ound care, I nfection control and N utrition), extends her impact to two other Kindred Hospitals in the area. For the past two years - at the advice of her own mentor - she has served as a W.I.N. mentor and resource to new infection control staff at Kindred Santa Ana, Kindred La Mirada and Kindred San Gabriel.

Anna works with new hires for their first six months on the job, providing guidance, explaining procedures, answering questions and often just being there when they need a good listener.

"Sometimes they just say, 'I'm so overwhelmed - I need someone to talk to," she explained.

She says she can relate to how difficult the job was when she first started, and believes the little things she and others do through the W.I.N. program make a difference in employee retention. But, she pointed out, that's not the only benefit.

"The thing I like most about the program is that being a mentor is a great opportunity for me to help someone else love being an infection control nurse," said Anna. "It's given me a great feeling of satisfaction in that I've helped someone grow in the field, but I've also helped save lives in helping these new infection control nurses prevent infections."

Anna is especially appreciative of Kindred for the opportunity to practice infection control and mentor, and is thankful for the environment in which she works.

"I've been at bigger hospitals, even teaching hospitals," she said. "You don't really get to know the people you work with there. With Kindred, it's such a small place, I know the staff and it's more like family. That's key - to be able to work in a family atmosphere."

Besides, Anna says she couldn't see herself working at any place - it wouldn't rhyme with her name. It's a little thing, but Anna enjoys being "Anna from Santa Ana."

 

By Mike Ogburn