The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) represents infection preventionists (IPs) with nearly 16,000 members. Founded in 1972, APIC’s mission is to create a safer world through prevention of infection. HQ interviewed Elizabeth Garman (right photo), vice president of communications and practice resources.
1) The pandemic affected all of us, but APIC must have been particularly touched. How has your work changed over the past year and the last dramatic events?
Ordinarily working behind the scenes, the rapid escalation of COVID-19 put IPs front and centre in their facilities, leading incident command teams and preparing their facilities for the spreading pandemic.
In late January, we initiated a campaign to help our members carry out our mission to ‘Create a safer world through the prevention of infection’. We developed a website to get members the most relevant information on COVID-19 quickly. We formed a Task Force to vet materials and to keep us from burdening our member committees who were working round-the-clock on the COVID-19 response. We met weekly with leaders of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other stakeholder groups to clarify changing guidance and get answers to pressing questions. Putting mission ahead of profit, resources were made available for free, including key chapters from APIC’s encyclopedic infection control textbook. To meet the urgent needs of nursing homes facing disproportionate deaths from COVID-19, APIC created a separate website for this audience and gave six months of free access to our IPC Guide to Long-Term Care Guide and relevant chapters within the APIC Text Online. We also collaborated with other associations to provide free online education to members and potential members.
In March and again in October, we surveyed our members to inform policymakers and the news media on the lack of access to personal protective equipment. From a business standpoint, APIC, like other associations, had to cancel all live education events, including our annual conference scheduled for June in Phoenix (Arizona) that regularly draws 5,000 people. To fill the space, we converted several live events to virtual learning events including a Cleaning, Disinfection and Sterilization conference in October and created a completely new virtual conference called APIC Live Online taking place December 11. We also strengthened our online learning portfolio and accelerated COVID-related updates to existing products and resources. Because our members still need to sit for their certification exams, we organised two virtual certification prep programmes in the fall.
2) You have been really active. Did you take other initiatives?
In addition to providing scientific education, we also needed to address the psychological and emotional toll the lingering pandemic was having on IPs. Starting in August and continuing through the fall, APIC offered a series of free virtual wellness events to engage and promote discussion about how to heal the emotional wounds of the pandemic. We learned through focus groups that our members felt beaten, weary and defeated and the end of the pandemic was nowhere in sight. So, we re-focused our annual International Infection Prevention Week campaign to centre on the unique and heroic contributions of IPs, created a #WeLoveIPs campaign and featured IP stories on the website, in our weekly eNews publication and our quarterly magazine Prevention Strategist.
3) How does your approach adapt to reach all of your members worldwide and across their differences?
IPs prevent the spread of infections to patients and workers inside healthcare facilities including hospitals, ambulatory clinics, nursing homes, public health and other types of settings. Most APIC members are educated and trained as nurses, physicians, public health professionals, epidemiologists or medical technologists. They play a pivotal leadership role in their facility’s outbreak preparedness efforts, they adapt policies and procedures about novel organisms and educate healthcare personnel about infectious diseases and how they can remain safe while treating patients. IPs also work to prevent healthcare-associated infections in healthcare facilities by isolating sources of infections and limiting their transmission. They collect, analyse and interpret health data in order to track infection trends, plan appropriate interventions, measure success and report relevant data to public health agencies. They establish scientifically based infection prevention practices and collaborate with the healthcare team to assure implementation.
Because IPs come from varied back- grounds and work in varied settings, APIC develops tailored education and resources to address different segments of membership who have different educational needs. While the majority of APIC members are based in the U.S. or North America with limited face-to-face interaction, online education and electronic resources are consumed by IPs around the world.
4) What is the most challenging part of your work: “spreading knowledge” or “preventing infections” – for as much as the two are connected?
IPs are charged with both spreading knowledge and preventing infection – these are the fundamental tenets of their jobs and drive our work at the association level. This has been challenging during the pandemic, as government organisation guidelines on COVID-19 changed on a frequent basis. Staying on top of shifting guidance continues to be an enormous challenge for our members and it is one of the most important ways that APIC provides value to our members.
Supported by the Union of International Associations (UIA), the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) and the Interel Group, the global public affairs and association management consultancy, Headquarters Magazines serve the needs of international associations organising worldwide congresses.