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To quantitatively evaluate relationships between infection preventionists (IPs) staffing levels, nursing hours, and rates of 10 types of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).
Design and setting:
An ambidirectional observation in a 528-bed teaching hospital.
All inpatients from July 1, 2012, to February 1, 2021.
Standardized US National Health Safety Network (NHSN) definitions were used for HAIs. Staffing levels were measured in full-time equivalents (FTE) for IPs and total monthly hours worked for nurses. A time-trend analysis using control charts, t tests, Poisson tests, and regression analysis was performed using Minitab and R computing programs on rates and standardized infection ratios (SIRs) of 10 types of HAIs. An additional analysis was performed on 3 stratifications: critically low (2–3 FTE), below recommended IP levels (4–6 FTE), and at recommended IP levels (7–8 FTE).
The observation covered 1.6 million patient days of surveillance. IP staffing levels fluctuated from ≤2 IP FTE (critically low) to 7–8 IP FTE (recommended levels). Periods of highest catheter-associated urinary tract infection SIRs, hospital-onset Clostridioides difficile and carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae infection rates, along with 4 of 5 types of surgical site SIRs coincided with the periods of lowest IP staffing levels and the absence of certified IPs and a healthcare epidemiologist. Central-line–associated bloodstream infections increased amid lower nursing levels despite the increased presence of an IP and a hospital epidemiologist.
Of 10 HAIs, 8 had highest incidences during periods of lowest IP staffing and experience. Some HAI rates varied inversely with levels of IP staffing and experience and others appeared to be more influenced by nursing levels or other confounders.
All patients and staff on the outbreak ward (case cluster), and randomly selected patients and staff on COVID-19 wards (positive control cluster) and a non-COVID-19 wards (negative control cluster) underwent reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing. Hand hygiene and personal protective equipment (PPE) compliance, detection of environmental SARS-COV-2 RNA, patient behavior, and SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibody prevalence were assessed.
In total, 145 staff and 26 patients were exposed, resulting in 24 secondary cases. Also, 4 of 14 (29%) staff and 7 of 10 (70%) patients were asymptomatic or presymptomatic. There was no difference in mean cycle threshold between asymptomatic or presymptomatic versus symptomatic individuals. None of 32 randomly selected staff from the control wards tested positive. Environmental RNA detection levels were higher on the COVID-19 ward than on the negative control ward (OR, 19.98; 95% CI, 2.63–906.38; P < .001). RNA levels on the COVID-19 ward (where there were no outbreaks) and the outbreak ward were similar (OR, 2.38; P = .18). Mean monthly hand hygiene compliance, based on 20,146 observations (over preceding year), was lower on the outbreak ward (P < .006). Compared to both control wards, the proportion of staff with detectable antibodies was higher on the outbreak ward (OR, 3.78; 95% CI, 1.01–14.25; P = .008).
Staff seroconversion was more likely during a short-term outbreak than from sustained duty on a COVID-19 ward. Environmental contamination and PPE use were similar on the outbreak and control wards. Patient noncompliance, decreased hand hygiene, and asymptomatic or presymptomatic transmission were more frequent on the outbreak ward.
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