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My Story as Infection Prevention and Control Matron

My name is Michael Mark Dalauidao but you can call me “Mark”. I joined the NHS in 2016 as a Band 5 Stroke Nurse, and was promoted to Band 6 as a Nurse in Charge/Thrombolysis Senior Nurse after 9 months. Then, I transferred to the Infection Prevention and Control team as a Band 6 and got promotion to Band 7 after 14 months. Currently, I just got a new band 8a role as a Matron/Senior Nurse Specialist in the Infection Prevention and Control Team within my Trust.

As an Infection Prevention and Control Nurse Specialist, I play a crucial role in minimising infection risk to patients and staff within the organisation. Our team is part of the day-to-day quality and safety operations in the Trust. The overarching responsibilities of the infection prevention team are planning, evaluating, and updating trends, investigating and monitoring infections, developing protocols, educating staff members, and maintaining quality. We played a very significant role during the peaks of the COVID 19 pandemic but more so every single day as well. Personally, I even volunteered at the London Nightingale Hospital as an Infection Prevention and Control Nurse Specialist during the first two waves to ensure all patients and all staff working in the makeshift hospital are safe and still receive the highest standard of care.

Prior to joining the team, I have been an infection control link nurse on the ward and being in that role made me fall in love with this specialisation. I have also worked with a few of the most renowned and most accomplished Infection Control Nurses in the country. This specialisation is very interesting and there are no similar incidents on a daily basis. Hence, I have learned so much along the process and am still continually learning every single day. The coverage of this speciality is very wide. From as simple as bed bugs to the most resistant multidrug organisms; from a single case or increased incidences or outbreaks, our team manages them. The wide array of duties and responsibilities made me passionate about working in this specialisation.

Ideally, you must have an experience in infection control at the same time a master’s degree or at least a foundation course in this area of practise. During the time that I have applied, I do not have any of those requirements but I have applied anyway. The post that was advertised was a band 7 post, since I don’t have any of those requirements they have offered me the same as my current band (Band 6). They must have seen something in me that they offered me the job.

As a Matron in infection prevention and control team, I am responsible for the coordination and development of a quality infection prevention and control service, providing leadership, support and guidance to trust staff and ensuring a focused service. I have to give assurance to the board that we have a concrete and safe plan ready and that we are maintaining a safe and providing a high standard of care across every specialisation.

Having said that here are some of the skills required if you are interested to join the infection control team: Clinical, communication and leadership skills, knowledge on infection prevention and control (microbiology, incidence and outbreak management, audit, risk assessment, education and surveillance), you must be able to work independently and efficiently. Most importantly, you must be willing to learn and always ensure that whatever decision you make or action you take whether as an independent practitioner or as part of the entire team, the service users (patients) and the staff members must be the center. In short, every intervention you implement must benefit every single person in the clinical area.

Every day is different.. and that to start with is a great challenge for this role. You don’t know what incidences or outbreaks you will encounter. However, if you get to know the basics and the ins and outs of the Trust policies and of infection control in general it will eventually get better and easier. In this specialisation, you are not only focused on your patient, you are actually trying to ensure that every single person who enters the hospital, whether it be patients, family members or staff members (nurses, doctors, healthcare assistants, therapists, porters, cleaners, volunteers and executives), are safe.

One of the misconceptions about infection control specialists is that “They only come here to find faults, or to say do this and do that” or “They are not doing anything, they are just sitting in their offices all the time”. But, when I joined this specialisation, the responsibility of an IPC specialist is more than that. Indeed, “it takes one to know one”, until you are in the role you will never realise how hard they work and how wide the scope of their role is. Sad to say, which you may agree or disagree, but they are one of the underappreciated teams in the Trust or sometimes even neglected.

It may be different when you are a specialist in certain areas where they are more patient focused such as diabetic nurse specialist or anticoagulation specialist. With infection control, it is way beyond just focusing on the patient, we are dealing with every single person and even animals who enter the hospital. For instance, with the recent pandemic, even though we only have one virus to deal with at that time, the amount of work that the IPC team has to execute was insurmountable especially at the beginning. As an IPC nurse specialist we have worked with the Silver command of the Trust to facilitate, coordinate and implement all the risk mitigating interventions identified to ensure that the Trust will be able to function safely for all its stakeholders. With the ever changing guidelines from the Public Health England (PHE) at that time, made the training and education that the IPC team delivered ever so challenging. The fit testing of the FFP3 mask is another story. Looking back, it is understandable that we are in the middle of the pandemic and staff are afraid and anxious but believe it or not the abuse and the disrespect that the IPC team has experienced was unbelievable. In every specialisation, I know there will always be challenges but within this role, that is an understatement as I have said every day presents various challenges.

With all its demands and hurdles, the IPC role has taught me to be resilient and pursuing as a nurse in this post offers benefits for your professional development. There are opportunities to be an infection prevention and control nurse specialist everywhere. Currently, we do not have enough infection control specialists and you will always see vacancies across the UK. If you’re considering securing an IPC post, you must be holistically prepared and must be willing to learn and be able to adapt quickly with the system. At the beginning it might be challenging, but as I have said once you get the basics then you will be fine. You must have the passion to do this role. If you’re a ward nurse, you must start developing your basic skills now in your ward.You can be a link nurse for infection control or intravascular access because this will help you to hone your skills. If you can ask your manager to send you for an infection control course or module then go for it. I will be honest, this role is not easy but I’m sure you will find it very rewarding just as much as I did.

Ultimately, I wanted to share with you my guiding principle, “You should practice what you preach”. Since day one, this has been my maxim as you will never go wrong. This draws authority and respect because they know that you are compliant with everything you are saying. Nobody can say that “you are not doing this or that” because if you practice what you say they will see it and they will respect you for that and as a result it will be easier for you to implement policies and projects yielding a higher chance of getting compliance. If there is a high compliance then a safer, better and higher standard of care will be delivered.

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