One in 10 patients will acquire an infection during their health care journey – a journey that often begins with emergency health services. Despite this frequency, there has been little research in this area. What the research does indicate, however, is low hand hygiene compliance rates.

Lisa Young
Lisa Young

Lisa joined the BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) in 2013, with the goal of addressing the gap between acute and long-term health care Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC), and pre-hospital emergency health care. She is a one-person team within the quality department responsible for transforming attitudes and awareness around safety and IPAC among BCEHS staff. To achieve that goal, she has employed engaging strategies, relentless innovation, and pure, passionate enthusiasm.

Hand hygiene is a difficult topic to tackle in any health care setting, but little work has been done in the specific context of emergency health services. Lisa began working to translate practices from health care settings to fit the roles and responsibilities of BCEHS staff. She worked with EMS colleagues in other provinces as part of a pre-hospital care interest group to develop and share best practices. With these learnings, Lisa implemented a hand hygiene audit, and provided training to auditors in BC.

With this audit, Lisa was able to gather baseline data on hand hygiene in 2014. By 2015, there was marked improvement. Behind this uptick is a significant cultural shift that is due to Lisa’s influence and engagement with staff. In fact, the impact has been so significant that a surveyor from Accreditation Canada mistakenly assumed she had multiple people on her team; BCEHS now jokingly refers to Lisa’s “team of invisible minions.”

Lisa’s energy around the topic of hand hygiene motivates and sticks with BCEHS staff. She makes sure to be available for questions and face-to-face support whenever it’s needed. Her presentations are so memorable that one leader noted others on his unit still repeat the hand hygiene stats she’d shared in a presentation two years earlier.

By making the topic of IPAC interesting, relevant, and important to BCEHS staff, Lisa has worked to transform the culture of pre-hospital care and change attitudes in ways that measurably impact patient safety and outcomes. Her efforts are preventing infections among BC patients, one pair of hands at a time.