APIC Honors Hospital Administrator for Infection Prevention Efforts

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) presented its first-ever “Healthcare Administrator Award” to Deborah Friberg, chief operating officer and executive vice president of the Raleigh, N.C.-based WakeMed Health and Hospitals. The award recognizes a health care facility’s executive team member who has demonstrated significant support for infection prevention and control throughout his or her facility.

Friberg was honored during an APIC ceremony commemorating International Infection Prevention Week held on Oct. 16 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where APIC is headquartered. APIC, an association with more than 12,000 members, presented the program live via webcast. In receiving the award, Friberg was presented with a commemorative plaque and funding for educational products for WakeMed, an 810-bed, not-for-profit system.

“We are proud to honor Deb with this award,” said APIC 2009 President Christine J. Nutty, RN, MSN, CIC. “Her support has been integral to the success of WakeMed’s infection prevention and control program. She has provided funding for research studies related to infection prevention and participated in state and national infection prevention collaboratives. She has also supported the addition of patient care products that while more expensive than those previously used, have been proven to help prevent infections. Not only does she provide both administrative and financial support to help the staff set and meet ambitious goals, but she also sets standards for physicians and employees by publicly displaying her commitment to infection prevention during interactions throughout the facility.”

During Friberg’s 14 years of leadership at WakeMed, the system’s infection prevention department has grown from a staff of two to a staff of seven and has become much more visible within the organization. Despite challenging economic times, Friberg recently approved the purchase of an electronic infection surveillance system to improve data collection and reduce staff time spent on surveillance and clerical tasks. APIC noted that automated surveillance offers a more efficient and accurate means of obtaining health care-associated infection data and allows infection preventionists to improve prevention practices.

Recognizing that Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections are a major threat to patients, Friberg has committed her time as the executive sponsor for MRSA reduction and leads the organization’s participation in a three-year collaborative with 41 other hospitals. As a result, the system’s MRSA rates have decreased by 54 percent since the project began in 2006. She also approved requests to begin active surveillance culturing to obtain quicker MRSA test results. Within two months of active surveillance screening and interventions that included strict hand hygiene and enhanced environmental cleaning, the facility eliminated MRSA transmission in its neonatal unit. The program was expanded to the adult trauma unit which has had no MRSA infections for more than a year.

When WakeMed infection preventionists wanted to study chlorhexidine bathing for surgical intensive care unit patients, Friberg approved the funding. Within three months, these measures reduced catheter-related blood stream infections by 74 percent. She also supported a project to place personal protective equipment at the point-of-use for health care workers along with significant funding to purchase rolling cabinets to house the equipment.

Hand hygiene compliance is another priority for Friberg, APIC said. Under her leadership, hand hygiene has been added as a component of every employee’s performance evaluation in addition to being named the organization’s number one patient safety standard. The result: hand hygiene compliance rates have risen to 90 percent or better since January 2009.

International Infection Prevention Week is being observed Oct. 18-24 this year and carries the theme, “Infection prevention is everyone’s business.” With support from 3M Health Care through an unrestricted educational grant, APIC will offer a series of free webinars for health professionals October 20-22 on current issues in infection prevention. For more information on the upcoming week’s activities, visit www.apic.org/iipw.

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