By: Michelle Strange, MSDH, RDH
Infection control (IC) is vital to protect the health and well-being of both patients and staff in any successful dental practice. It should be a priority to appoint at least one infection control coordinator (ICC) responsible for the safe delivery of care.
What is an Infection Control Coordinator?
The CDC states that an ICC must be well-versed in infection prevention protocols and must be willing to update their knowledge continuously, becoming experts on the subject. Additional education and training is required to perform this role’s duties properly, an excellent qualification to add to a resume.
Since 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that every dental office have an ICC. However, almost 20 years later, many Dental Healthcare offices still do not have an appointed ICC. Cough, cough, TWENTY YEARS!
Depending on the size of the office, this could be a person whose entire job is wholly dedicated to infection control or a person who devotes a portion of their time to the duty. The latter is more likely in small dental practices where the ICC would wear a few hats.
Why are Infection Control Coordinators Important?
At times, infection prevention may seem like common sense. But then legacy errors occur, and suddenly we have infection control breaches, putting our patients’ health and safety at risk.
Dental healthcare providers are not infection control experts simply because we have an education and experience in dentistry. We drive cars, but that doesn’t mean we know everything there is to know about them, right?
We may know how to drive, but when our car breaks down, we need the assistance of a mechanic who understands the nuances of the job. Having someone trained specifically to manage infection control is akin to having a qualified mechanic in the car with you.
Benefits of Having an Infection Control Coordinator
The advantages of having an ICC, or becoming one, are plentiful. The ICC is not someone who is merely given a role, and it ends there. For the dental clinic, having an ICC means having a well-written and established infection control plan tailored specifically to the practice.
This is important to ensure compliance or pass any state dental board inspection, and it also helps maintain a high level of safety in the office, something that can be used as a marketing tool.
Patients will have peace of mind knowing that their safety is safeguarded, instantly elevating the level of quality and trust. And as the dental healthcare provider, we can also feel secure in the quality of care we provide to our patients.
Furthermore, because part of the ICC’s role is to maintain the equipment properly, the life expectancy of these very expensive items in the dental office can be extended.
Infection Control Specialists Protect Everyone
Establishing an effective infection control program and having an ICC on-site to supervise is critical to patient and personnel safety, compliance with frequently changing regulations and guidelines, and the efficient utilization of resources to ensure the safest dental visit possible for all.
The infection control specialist is responsible for exemplifying a culture of safety in the office, leading by example and demonstrating commitment towards adhering to critical infection prevention measures.
A coordinator can ensure that everyone involved, from employers to employees, is committed to ensuring the safety of the workplace, office, patients, and personnel. They can also ensure that the practice is always up to date and ready to handle any significant outbreaks or issues and can be called upon to advise on a plan of action in times of high infection risk.
Invest in appointing and training an ICC in your dental office to protect everyone who steps through your doors.
Michelle Strange, MSDH, RDH, brings over 20 years of experience to her numerous roles in dentistry. A graduate of the Medical University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s of health science and the University of Bridgeport with a master’s in dental hygiene education, she is focused on expanding the knowledge of her colleagues in all aspects of health care. Strange’s passion for dentistry and its connection to overall health extends to her community and global efforts. Currently, she is the cofounder and cohost of the longest-running podcast for dental hygienists, A Tale of Two Hygienists, the cofounder of Level Up Infection Prevention and TriviaDent, a practicing dental hygienist, and client success manager for MouthWatch.