January 29, 2021

Healthcare heroes: Infection control and prevention at UW Health

Madison, Wis. — This week marks one year since UW Health saw the first COVID-19 case in Wisconsin. There are thousands of healthcare heroes at UW Health, fighting this pandemic in many different ways, but our infection control practitioners play one of the most central and critical roles.

Today, UW Health wants to recognize the efforts of those in infection control and prevention, whose tireless work, expert analysis and strong partnership have been key to UW Health's response to this pandemic since day one.

The UW Health infection control and prevention department is central to creating a safe and healthy environment for patients and employees. This has never been more important than during the COVID-19 pandemic response.

A year ago, UW Health's infection prevention team of 10 infection control practitioners and six doctors, started planning for the arrival of COVID-19 before it had emerged in most of the United States.

In those early weeks the team spent countless hours creating screening protocols, designing testing workflows, reviewing CDC and state guidance, training staff on personal protective equipment, creating protocols for cleaning, patient transport, triage and diagnosis, and collaborating with senior leadership as well as each department in the health system. These protocols and workflows evolved as our understanding of the virus grew.

"We are the link between public health and a medical setting. We take recommendations from organizations like the CDC and put them into practice," said Laura Anderson, infection control practitioner at UW Health. "For example, when the CDC recommended everyone should wear a mask while in the building, we helped implement that protocol."

Infection prevention works with all departments at UW Health, including environmental services, central services, clinical care and laboratory. They also support frontline staff through any issues related to workflow, PPE and caring for COVID-19 patients.

"Dealing with a pandemic, has brought infection control practices to the forefront," said Michelle Schmitz, infection control practitioner at UW Health. "With hand hygiene, PPE and environmental sanitation standing as important cornerstones of our COVID-19 pandemic response, I see staff reflecting and changing the way they look at all infection control practices long after the pandemic is over."