by Karen Houghton.
Estimated reading time: Approx. 5 minutes
Whenever asked about infection prevention and sterilisation protocols and procedures, the three most common statements we hear from different members of the dental team are:
“Oh, the girls do that.”
“I’m just an employee here.”
“I do what I can, but nothing changes.”
There seems to be an ever widening gap between practices that are conscientious in their approach to infection prevention and those that adopt a ‘we’re pretty good’ mentality. We often find however, that those with the ‘we’re pretty good’ approach, in actual fact, are not. While the correct way to perform hand hygiene has not really changed over the years, the things we are dealing with have, hence, it is important to understand and have up to date information on infection prevention methods and current guidelines.
Another 'favourite' of mine is ‘a patient has never died because of dental treatment’.
Well, actually, they have. And not as a direct result of a dental procedure, but from contaminated water that came from dental unit water lines during that procedure - something that could have been prevented if correct waterline maintenance had been undertaken.
While in the dental profession, we are certainly at lower risk of some of these things than a hospital department, the risk is still there. More importantly, we need to consider more prevalent ailments such as influenza, hepatitis and even the common cold. How many patients do you think come away from a dental practice and a week later have a cold or contract influenza but don’t attribute this to their dental visit? These numbers are unquantifiable.
So, which are you?
If you are the principal dentist who is relying on ‘the girls to do it’, consider this: as the registered dentist you are ultimately accountable for the overall compliance of your practice. Yes, you can delegate the duties involved in the process, but you must be able to attest to everything being undertaken and in the correct manner.
As the associate or employee dentist who is ‘just working there’: as a registered dentist and the end user of the reprocessed items, you are responsible for knowing how they have been reprocessed and for speaking out if they are not.
As the practice manager or the dental assistant: although the responsibilities of compliance have been delegated to you and you should have been provided with clear policies and procedures to follow, you must also hold the dentist accountable if you think things need to change.
So as a team, what can you do to make sure Compliance reins over Complacency?
Here are some actions to set you on your way:
- Take time to review your Policies and Procedures - do you have everything documented and have all the team read these?
- Appoint an Infection Prevention Co-Ordinator. This role might be given to the Practice Manager or other non-clinical team member, so they can hold everyone to account and oversee the Infection Prevention Management Plan for the practice.
- Have an Infection Prevention Management Plan.
- Implement a staff training schedule for all team members. Training in some form must be undertaken annually.
- Commit to being conscientious in maintaining your Compliance levels and add Compliance as an agenda item to your meetings to keep everyone on track.
>> Find out more on the 4 components of Compliance here.
Remember - safety and compliance is everyone's responsibility.