Regulated healthcare settings in New York State, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and diagnostic and treatment centers, have been required for many years to have infection control programs in place that are designed to protect patients, employees, and visitors. These facilities have established policies and procedures to address a number of concerns including: hand hygiene; prevention of infection associated with surgery; intravenous therapy (IV): use of urinary catheters and other invasive procedures; housekeeping; disinfection and sterilization of equipment; waste disposal; and other areas that may be a source of infection. Isolation and employee health policies also limit the potential for exposure to communicable diseases and provide a mechanism for follow-up when inadvertent exposures occur. Through surveillance of infection in these settings, and quality assurance and risk management programs, compliance with infection control standards are monitored and problems are identified early. Attention to the infection control program has had an important impact on reducing healthcare associated and occupationally acquired infections.
In 2010, the Department of Health (DOH) mandated changes to all infection control training syllabi because lapses in infection control practices had been found in healthcare settings that placed individuals at risk for disease. In response to the investigations into these lapses in infection control practices, the Patient Safety Bill was signed into law by the governor of New York in August of 2008. New guidelines and practices have been changed according to evidence and research that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with state agencies now recommend.
It was the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV), and concern over how to protect against contracting these diseases from receipt of healthcare that helped to influence the training requirement you are meeting by taking this course.
The strategy that offers the greatest opportunity for protecting the public in settings where they receive healthcare is one of assuring that infection control measures are routinely in place and routinely observed. Such practices must provide protection from cross contamination from patient to patient, as well as patient and healthcare worker exposure to pathogens through the direct provision of care. While bloodborne pathogens were the chief concern driving policy and legislation, other pathogens transmitted by contact (e.g., staphylococci, gram negative organisms), airborne and droplet transmission (e.g. flu, TB) also pose a risk. Attention to the principles of infection control will diminish the opportunity for these exposures as well.
Since 1992, the State of New York has required that certain healthcare professionals licensed in New York State receive training on infection control and barrier precautions. This requirement stipulates that the initial training include the six core elements (identified below) developed by the New York State Education Department. Chapter 786 of the Laws of 1992 affects every dental hygienist, dentist, licensed practical nurse, optometrist, physician, physician assistant, podiatrist, registered professional nurse, and specialist assistant practicing in New York State. In 2008, medical residents, medical students, and physician assistant students were added to the list of healthcare professionals required to complete infection control training every four years.
Being fully aware of the professional and legal responsibility of infection control in New York State helps protect one’s license. In March 1992, the New York State Board of Regents amended the Regents Rules, expanding the definition of unprofessional conduct to include failure to follow appropriate infection prevention techniques in healthcare practice. The New York State Department of Health has also adopted similar regulations. This training, required by Chapter 786 of the Laws of 1992, establishes that failure to adhere to such standards can be considered evidence of professional misconduct and could lead to disciplinary action.
Since this 1992 requirement was enacted in New York State, much has changed. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 prompted the nation and healthcare providers to focus on the potential for weaponized biological agents. Since the events of September 11 and the subsequent bioterrorist use of Bacillus anthracis, we have learned more about infection control challenges posed by those agents. Infection control specifically related to bioterrorism is beyond the scope of this course.
The goal of this state-mandated infection control training is to:
- Assure that licensed, registered, or certified health professionals understand how bloodborne pathogens may be transmitted in the work environment: patient to healthcare worker, healthcare worker to patient, and patient to patient.
- Apply current scientifically accepted infection control principles as appropriate for the specific work environment.
- Minimize the opportunity for transmission of pathogens to patients and healthcare workers.
- Familiarize professionals with the law requiring this training and the professional misconduct charges that may be applicable for not complying with the law.
This course meets the 1992 educational requirement that identified the minimum core elements to be included in the required coursework in infection control. The minimum core elements consist of six statements, each of which defines a general content area to be addressed. This online course meets the requirements of the original training requirements, as well as the revised requirements.
The Core Elements of Required Coursework in Infection Control, determined by the New York State Education Department are:
- The responsibility to adhere to scientifically accepted principles and practices of infection control and to monitor the performance of those for whom the professional is responsible.
- Modes and mechanisms of transmission of pathogenic organisms in the healthcare setting and strategies for prevention and control.
- Use of engineering and work practice controls to reduce the opportunity for patient and healthcare worker contact with potentially infectious material for bloodborne pathogens.
- Selection and use of barriers and/or personal protective equipment for preventing patient and healthcare worker contact with potentially infectious materials.
- Creation and maintenance of a safe environment for patient care through application of infection control principles and practices for cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization.
- Prevention and control of infectious and communicable diseases in healthcare workers.
The law requires that professionals’ initial coursework in this mandatory infection control training include the six elements listed above, and that infection control training must occur every four years thereafter.
As a healthcare professional in New York State, you are required to attest to having completed this requirement to the State Education Department at every subsequent registration period.
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