Research for infection protection

Interview: “Our sector cannot afford to neglect safety.”

Joachim Prölß, Director of Nursing and Patient Organisation and member of the board of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany
Joachim Prölß, Director of Nursing and Patient Organisation and member of the board of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany

Three questions to Joachim Prölß, Director of Nursing and Patient Organisation and member of the board of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany.


You repeatedly compare hygiene with flight safety. How high is the risk of crashing in your clinic?

Joachim Prölß: Flight safety primarily is based on a high work quality of the personnel and a good stabilising organisational structure. And that is exactly our approach: at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) we explicitly made hospital hygiene a management task: the administrative department with own budget and staff directly reports to the management board. With regard to human resources – i.e. hygiene staff and infection control specialists – we exceed the legal requirements of, for example, the Robert Koch-Institute. We developed an own concept that includes hygiene mentors to embed hygiene at the base. Every ward has employees, who are intensively involved in hygiene. And, of course, we have established monitoring tools. With this strategy, we attempt to assume a role model in hospital hygiene.


Your exemplary function has also been proven by an excellent EHEC management. The intervention study, however, revealed weaknesses in hygiene. A contradiction?

Joachim Prölß: To be a role model has many aspects. One major objective of the study was to determine the status quo: to what extent has our clinic implemented hygiene measures that were described to be effective? And this with one of the most common invasive measures in patients. A question that had not been examined often before. The weaknesses in hygiene that were detected during the study could be eliminated successfully with the intervention measures. To be a role model also means to observe oneself unconditionally and to deal with the results openly and constructively. Only then we jointly achieve our target: high safety for patients.


The hygiene scandals in hospitals has shown us that patients cannot rely on safety everywhere. What goes wrong there?

Joachim Prölß: Hygiene is a field with highest safety relevance. Not every so-called hygiene scandal can be reduced to lacks or errors in hygiene. In fact, no hospital can afford to neglect hygiene. The responsibility rests with the operator of the facility and thus, hygiene is a clear task of the management. Our clinic’s philosophy is “It does not work without leadership”. And this is meant to have two meanings. On the one hand, we give the employees a clear orientation in hygiene with clear structures. We, for example, agree on certain hand hygiene targets with nursing managers. Thus, we have introduced the classical instrument of personnel development to hygiene, including the verification of goals. However, leadership also means that senior management is a role model. So, no chief physician with swaying gown and wedding band on the finger. And finally, we promote a special error culture, i.e. we make our mistakes transparent and also managers face up to criticism.


Source:
Speech by Joachim Prölß, Director of Nursing and Patient Organisation and member of the board of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany. Lunchtime Symposium: Simple Processes – Improved Hygiene. New research results to protect patients in daily hospital routine, Berlin, Germany, 19 September 2013, arranged by the BODE SCIENCE CENTER, Hamburg, Germany, scientific centre of excellence of PAUL HARTMANN AG, Heidenheim, Germany.