Hospital Takes Leadership Role in Infection Prevention at Reed City Public Schools

In an effort to challenge Reed City Public Schools (RCPS) and Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital to develop programs that make hand hygiene a priority for students and staff, the hospital administrators engaged infection prevention coordinator Lisa Pope, RN, BSN to take her annual education campaign one step further. Lisa developed the hand washing program two years ago visiting the classrooms of Reed City Public Schools to teach the importance of proper hand washing and cough etiquette. Through her annual coordinated efforts with local educators, Lisa learned that teachers and administrators struggled to keep tissues and hand sanitizers (basic necessities to prevent the spread of infection) in supply in all of the classrooms. Spectrum Health Reed City learned of the situation and with monies budgeted for infection prevention and education, decided to fill the void by donating 120 hand sanitizer stations along with enough sanitizer to finish out the 2008/2009 school year.

Lisa contacted Ecolab Healthcare, the hospital’s supplier of hand sanitizer stations and asked if they would consider assisting in the initiative. Ecolab sold Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital the hand sanitizer stations and a year’s supply of sanitizer. Ecolab then decided it was such a great initiative they offered to donate 10 cases of hand sanitizer and sent a company representative to Reed City schools to oversee the installation in every classroom, hallway and high traffic areas. Pamela Marshall, account executive of Ecolab in an email to Spectrum Health officials described her day at RCPS …”It was AMAZING the response we received from students! Besides wanting to know what it was and who we were, they were excited that they had hand sanitizer. There were many teachers that were thankful as well – many were excited because they didn’t have to provide these much needed supplies out of their own pocket any more….you did a great thing with this project! You should feel very proud!”

Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital, while generous with their donation to the school has ulterior motives. Demonstrating their commitment to “well care” they hope that hand washing education and the daily utilization of the donated hand sanitizer stations throughout all RCPS facilities will lead to a decreasing number of sick children seeking treatment for cough, cold and flu-like symptoms. And with fewer children being sick, kids will miss less school and will minimize the spread of germs to others. Superintendent of Reed City Public Schools, Steve Westhoff who ensured that Lisa and Ecolab had total access to classrooms and high traffic areas stated “I’m thrilled with the partnership that Reed City Area Public Schools and Spectrum Health have developed especially when the end result is healthier kids and community”.

Lisa Pope will be monitoring and tracking the outcome and hopes to see positive results. Currently establishing a baseline, she will be utilizing data supplied to her by RCPS who will provide the numbers from the 2007/2008 school year showing the number of days missed throughout the school system due to cold and flu like symptoms. Lisa will then track the same data provided to her for the 2008/2009 school year and compare it against the previous year. Additionally, Spectrum Health trends this data via their influenza surveillance compilation from patients seeking treatment in their emergency department, physician practice sites and coordinated efforts with the local Health Department in tracking cold and flu like symptoms of minor children from certain demographic areas, i.e. Reed City. Lisa will also be monitoring the amount of sanitizer used in each classroom and area of the school – she can then determine where extra efforts and education will be needed in the future.

Rather than wait until a child is sick and needs treatment, Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital hopes this proactive approach to “well care” will encourage school aged children to not only adopt and continually perform proper hand hygiene but to take their knowledge home to their families and grow from student to educator. Lisa Pope is very excited about the positive impact of the initiative. “The pride and excitement I see in the students when I visit classrooms for hand hygiene education is amazing! The kids are so proud of their practices and eager to learn more. For me, it’s about providing the community with the knowledge and tools to protect the children and their families at the very basic aspect of care so that when we see them in our emergency room or clinics we know that we have already made a lasting and positive connection. I’ve been shopping and had a child run up to me and tell me that he/she is doing a great job washing their hands and that they have taught their family just like I asked. It is so rewarding and gives me a wonderful sense of pride. The children’s smiles and hugs are just the icing on the cake for me!” Proper hand hygiene is the number one (and easiest) way to prevent the transmission of infectious organisms and could literally save lives.