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Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Dental Products Report and Digital Esthetics. He is also the author of 18 technology books, including the award-winning Green IT: Reduce Your Information System's Environmental Impact While Adding to the Bottom Line. As such, he’s particularly interested in the technological side of dentistry.
Infection control training doesn’t have to be boring or redundant. Instead, look for new ways to engage your staff.
Infection control training can - and very regularly should - be an important part of your staff’s continuing education. Training encompasses not only new topics in the world of infection control, but also helps to correct deficiencies that may be present.
“The CDC’s 2016 release of the ‘Summary of Infection Prevention Practices in Dental Settings: Basic Expectations for Safe Care’ stresses the importance of training. In fact, the term ‘training’ appears 37 times,” says Karen Daw, an infection control consultant and former clinic health and safety director for The Ohio State University College of Dentistry. “The summary specifically states, ‘Education on the basic principles and practices for preventing the spread of infections should be provided to all DHCP. Training should include both DHCP safety (e.g., OSHA bloodborne pathogens training) and patient safety (e.g., emphasizing job- or task-specific needs).’”
But there is no one-size-fits-all approach for training. Each practice has unique needs and there are unique ways to meet those needs.
Click through the slides to learn five ways to conduct infection control training.
Decide who will lead
The trainer presenting the material can differ based on the material and how it is to be offered. If someone from the office conducts training, generally it is the infection prevention coordinator. Consultants and trainers can also deliver educational instruction.
“You can work with very credible consultants and bring in a consultant who can really help to do the training,” says Kathy Eklund, RDH, director of cccupational health and safety at The Forsyth Institute. “You want to make sure it’s very specific to the setting and specific to the policies and procedures of that setting. How are they applying the recommendations to ensure they’re in compliance? And how are you doing the training to ensure everybody understands what’s to be done and is consistent in doing that?”
Within the practice, training is ideally conducted by the infection prevention coordinator.
“One of their roles is education and training staff - both new staff as well as your annual training, as well as when things arise that need to be addressed,” Eklund says. “You don’t always have to wait an entire year to do education and training. It may be that you’ve changed products or devices or you see a trend when you’re doing some evaluations and you want to bring everybody together to talk about it, as opposed to saying, ‘We only do training once a year.’ Minimally, that’s true, but you should be doing intermittent training by various triggers.”
Daw adds that if the infection control training is also designed to fulfill OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens requirement, then the trainer should be experienced with the components of the standard. Per OSHA, individuals may conduct the training provided they are “Knowledgeable in the subject matter covered by the elements contained in the training program as it relates to the workplace. One way, but not the only way, knowledge can be demonstrated is the fact that the person received specialized training.”
Eklund notes the Organization for Safety Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP) has resources, tools and training materials for infection prevention coordinators.
“The infection prevention coordinator should be knowledgeable in relevant current CDC recommendations, OSHA regulations, and other state and local specific requirements,” Eklund says. “And that depends upon the setting. In addition to the resources and tools on the OSAP website, each year in January, OSAP holds a boot camp. The boot camp is three solid days of education and training on infection prevention and safety. It helps individuals to be able to go back into their own settings to not only manage their own programs, but also to be able to do some internal education and training.”
Training need not be conducted in one lengthy session. In fact, it is best digested when taken in a bit at a time.
“You might want to break it apart into specific areas, across different lunch-and-learn times where you really delve into one area of the training,” Eklund says.
Hands-on activities can enhance the training sessions.
“Medical emergency drills, for instance, are a very good example,” Eklund explains. “You can’t just talk about it; you need to engage staff in activities to demonstrate how to respond to a medical emergency. Have staff demonstrate how to use the oxygen tank or take the vital signs until the EMTs come.
“The same training techniques can be applied to infection control and safety training," Eklund adds. "Reviewing CDC recommendations and looking at site-specific policies can be done in a classroom setting, but it’s more effective to take staff into the sterilization area, talk through the processes, and refresh and remind everyone what needs to be done. In that way, it becomes more interactive, and that also engages staff to have more discussion and ask questions.”
Hands-on training can extend beyond the sterilization area and should include more than the hygienists and assistants.
“The assistants and the hygienists are primarily the ones who set up an operatory and break it down, but the dentist plays a big role as well, to be a second check or a second look,” she says. “When the dentist sits down with the patient, they should do an environmental scan to ensure that something hasn’t been missed. The dental assistants are extremely busy and having the second check helps to reduce the risk of an infection control breach due to human error. Infection prevention and control requires a team effort.”
A live setting
Conventionally, training is conducted by the office’s infection prevention coordinator or a consultant in a live setting. Meaning, the practice’s staff is gathered and the topics are covered face-to-face. Live training could be presented to a large group, too.
“Whether it’s the local dental society, sponsored event or a major dental convention in a popular destination, live training allows the attendee to get out of the office for a day or so,” Daw says. “Many times, group training outside the office is a great opportunity for team bonding as well. Plus, there are those who prefer the face time. Like with online live training, an attendee can ask questions either during or after the presentation and participate in activities that solidify the content of the training.
“Speakers can also adjust their presentation style based on continuous audience non-verbal feedback. A skilled speaker can look at a large group and tell if the training elements are well absorbed, or if they need to shift gears and revisit or drill down on a concept.”
In other cases, training can be conducted on site.
“This is great for practices that prefer a live presenter, but either can’t take their entire team out for training, need training but can’t make it to an event on a certain date or time, or who prefer the personalized attention that a live trainer can provide,” Daw says. “This is a highly customizable option because the trainer assesses the practice and builds a training session around their needs. A smaller group size also provides opportunities so that the information sticks. People are showing positive responses to experiential learning. Many people find the hands-on, personalized attention invaluable.”
Training need not be in person; it can also be conducted through prerecorded materials or virtually.
“The nice thing about prerecorded or online modules is that participants can revisit the courses as often as they like according to their own timeline or if a refresher is needed,” Daw says. “Some things to consider: Are we doing the same module or watching the same video year after year without updates? Also, how are we going to ensure interaction and retention? It’s not enough to provide infection control training; you want to do it in a way that lends itself to the team easily recalling the information as well.
“In addition, I can tell you from experience that people start the prerecorded online video, or press ‘play’ for the DVD, and then tune out. There’s little accountability and the systems I have seen are limited in exercises and interaction to keep the participant engaged. The last thing a team member wants is to sit through an hour or so of the same video year after year that does not keep them engaged. One office I visited had been watching the same VHS tape for over a decade.”
The internet affords the opportunity for training to be conducted in real-time via a conferencing application.
“Some prefer a live trainer and online live training is great for broadcasting the same message to a large group,” Daw says. “This style also allows information to be tailored to the audience background, interest level and needs in real-time. Training can be customized so that information is presented in bite-size chucks for those with difficulty focusing for long periods of time.
“I’ve participated in several online live events that allowed for an opportunity to ask questions. The attendee is able to leave with the answer immediately, which is a nice bonus. It’s hard, however, for the presenter to gauge the audience level of interest because there is no feedback loop. In-person training at least allows for the presenter to assess if the participant is lost on a concept.”
The best training, Eklund observes, generally occurs when staff is actively involved.
“You want to engage the staff,” Eklund says. “Not only just sitting and listening, but being able to interact, to be able to not only ask questions, but also to make suggestions or say, ‘I know you say do this, but let’s talk about the challenges,’ and you can use part of that training to actually engage staff in problem solving. I’ve written policies and procedures for many, many years. I have learned through experience that even when the written policies and standard operating procedures (SOPs) are consistent with the CDC recommendations, consistent with specific OSHA regulations, and other state and local requirements, they may not be written effectively to be implementable. Clear, concise policies and standard operating procedures require communication and interactive review.
“It is also extremely important that staff believe the implementation of the policies and SOPs are important for their safety and for patients’ safety,” Eklund continues. “It is far less effective to say to your staff, ‘You must do training. Now, here: Sign this paper saying that you have attended the training.’ That’s not really training and education, that’s just attendance. Education should be much more engaging.”
Encouraging staff to make the most of training is also key.
“People may take infection control training because it is a mandatory requirement or because they truly want to learn more,” Daw says. “Because there are only so many hours in the day and it all seems to be accounted for, make the most of infection control training by participating in training regularly and select a method that engages the participant. This helps them to retain and then apply the information, which ultimately is the goal.”