Five ways to make infection control more exciting

Brushing up on matters of infection control is certainly important. Unfortunately, it can also be boring, and staff may find themselves not as receptive as they could be.

Brushing up on matters of infection control is certainly important. Unfortunately, it can also be boring, and staff may find themselves not as receptive as they could be, running the risk of shutting down. An alternative to plunking staff down in front of a video or a website is to bring in a consultant who can customize a training program for the practice. The upshot of that interpersonal interaction is that the material is more accessible to team members. An essential part of that interaction is to have a bit of fun.

“When I go into office, they’re not excited for it,” says Dr. Lisa Kane, DMD, a dental consultant at Dental Office Compliance of New England. “Everyone always says, ‘Oh I know this. We’ve done that before.’ Once I do the classes, then they always say, ‘Oh my gosh, that was fun.’ I think that having someone come into your office versus doing something online is really helpful. I think that makes it more relatable and you can talk about exactly what’s going on in your office.”

“Safety is definitely a dry subject,” adds Mary Borg-Bartlett, president of SafeLink Consulting. “However, by making the training session interactive, I’ve found employees actually look forward to spending that time with us each year. We’ve developed some of our own games and purchased others. Also, using the team approach in these activities provides a fun atmosphere for dentists and staff to work together.”


Show, don’t tell, is a good way to get a lesson across. That is, physically demonstrating a given task is a far superior way to convey the message than just describing the steps. For instance, demonstrations are the best way to explain the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

“It makes it more real,” Dr. Kane says. “Demonstrations are really important. Personal protective equipment and understanding how to use it correctly is really important. So, I have people demonstrate that and make sure that they know what they’re doing. If they do it wrong, that can cause a lot of cross-contamination.”

PPE is an especially critical topic, and one where team members really benefit from an effectively conveyed message.

“Doing a demo on PPE is really important, because a lot of people have gotten illnesses from taking off their PPE off incorrectly,” Dr. Kane explains.

Proper use of a facemask seems to be the biggest source of confusion.

“Everyone’s putting them under their chin,” Dr. Kane says. “Everyone’s walking out of the operatories with them. I try to make people understand that the front desk people are not protected. They do not have any personal protective equipment. So, you want to really make sure that you’re not touching anything that you’re giving to them. I really try to make them understand that the operatory is ‘dirty’

Scavenger hunt

Clinic staff works around safety materials and equipment every day. They see it so often, it may just all blend into one overly familiar blur. One way in which staff can help combat desensitization is by refamiliarizing themselves with the office via a scavenger hunt.

“This is fun with emergency equipment, such as the eyewash station, fire extinguishers, first aid kit, AED, outside assembly place, inside assembly area, etc.,” Borg-Bartlett says. “If there are ten team members, then divide into two teams. Make clues out of each type of emergency equipment, or location, so that each team is given the first clue, and then when they reach that item, the next clue awaits them. Start one team at the end of the clues and the other at the beginning. The team that finds everything first is the winner. This is not only fun, but it reminds them of where these items are located.”


Simple, well-known games are great ways to make a dry topic more accessible.

“We also have Safety Bingo game,” Borg-Bartlett says. “We made up Bingo cards that contain safety terms. As we conduct our training, the attendees are listening for us to say those words so they can ‘X’ them on their card. We also show slides during the presentation so they can also ‘X’ the word if it shows up on the slide. If the training is about infection control, then the words would be names of diseases, types of PPE, names of chemicals used for infection control purposes, and we even put some odd words in and tell them that they can ask a question where the answer will be that word. They are instructed at the beginning to yell out, ‘Bingo!’ when they get one on their card. The purpose is to ‘X’ all words on the card – and we even provide a prize for those who cover the card.”

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Games need not be complicated to keep staff engaged.

“A simple game to play is with cards with the number ‘1’ on them,” Borg-Bartlett says. “As we present the information, we ask questions and attendees raise their hand to answer the question. If they answer correctly, then they are given one of the number cards. If teams are formed, then the team that collects the most numbers is the winner. You’d be amazed at how competitive this gets, but it also helps increase the knowledge of everyone.”

There is no limit to the types of games that can help staff have fun while learning.

“We’ve also used store-bought games, such as Jeopardy, Millionaire, Family Feud, Deal or No Deal, Hollywood Squares, and Wheel of Fortune,” Borg-Bartlett says. “Look for activities for teachers, and you’ll get some great ideas.”

Social media I SPY

Dr. Kane turns to her practices’ social media presence to help teach valuable infection control lessons. One of which is by taking pictures from the practice’s website or Facebook page and asking staff to find safety violations.

“If you go on any of them, you can play games and see who can find 10 different violations,” Dr. Kane says. “Most pictures out there on websites and social media platform usually has something wrong, infection control-wise.”

While it is a game that she likes to play during consultations, it is certainly something practices can do on their own.

“I have people figure out what’s wrong with the picture, but they also could do that independently in their office, say, ‘Hey everyone, go on our Instagram, and go find 10 violations, and then you get a prize,” she explains.

Water tests

Contaminated dental water lines have made the news lately, and Dr. Kane uses that as a teachable moment for her clients. She conducts in-office water tests, alongside staff.

“A company gave me free test samples, so I use them,” Dr. Kane says. “And I go, and I show them how to do it. We test their water. We have to wait 48 to 72 hours, but it makes them actually do it, and then they can see the results. Then they see that, ‘Oh my gosh, my water is great’ or, ‘It’s not great and I need to do something,’ versus just lecturing them and telling them, ‘You’ve got to fix your water.’”

Safety training is a regular part of life at a dental practice. These trainings have the potential to be dull and boring, but by adding a little spice, the material becomes more user-friendly.

“Safety Training is required by OSHA upon hire, when a new hazard is introduced into the workplace, and annually for infection control,” Borg-Bartlett observes. “We like to review infection control-plus chemicals and emergency planning-in our annual review, just to make sure that everyone understands how to stay safe in all of these areas. Having dentists and staff evaluate the training afterwards will also help identify the effectiveness of the training. OSHA expects the training to be specific to your work environment, so we customize the presentations.”

Dr. Kane gives out prizes to game winners. Given the current state of the world, in the face of the COVID-19 scare, some seemingly inconsequential prizes suddenly became relevant and highly sought after.

“Well, right now I happen to have hand sanitizer, and apparently I’m the only one that does,” she laughs.