Bilal Jawed ’17 – When imagining a hospital, you may picture a physician or nurse at the bedside of a patient. Working in the administrative offices of Indiana University Health has made it clear that this image is only the outer, most visible layer of a hospital. Behind each white coat there are hundreds of layers: nurse practitioners, lab technicians, pharmacists, social workers, chaplains, students, and volunteers, all playing their role magically in unison, just so that doctor can send a patient home after a successful surgery or treatment. In reality, it’s not magic; it’s health care administration hard at work in the background. As health care administration is not limited to a single department or task, my role at IU Health is not either; I spend my days researching in medical staff affairs, attending hospital leadership meetings, or helping provide a safe standard of care with the Infectious Prevention Team.
One of the most pressing issues facing the IU Health hospitals is the challenge of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), particularly central line infections. HAIs are illnesses acquired from simply being exposed to the environment of the hospital as a patient; they are estimated to kill more individuals than motor vehicles accidents, breast cancer, and AIDS combined. Approximately 1 in 25 patients develop a HAI and 1 of 9 of those patients will die from their infection. The place where people go to heal, the hospital, can actually be one of the greatest killers. The death toll for such a problem that is theoretically completely preventable is absurdly high.
Working with the Infection Prevention Team, one of my main focuses is to act as a driving force to reduce HAIs at the hospital. Because IU Health is such a massive, intricate, network of hospitals and facilities, the best approach is not on the front lines with patients, but often behind a computer screen or in the meeting room. For example, one of my projects is to write, edit, and streamline the IU Health policy and procedure for central lines. Central lines are catheters placed in veins that are often the greatest HAI offenders. A new standardized policy will eliminate erroneous and careless health care choices and help physicians and nurses make more scientifically based decisions.
As an Infection Preventionist, your job is often defined by its failures rather than successes. It is much easier to measure a life lost by a mistake than one saved by a novel health measure. This doesn’t, however, stop the Infection Prevention Team from doing whatever necessary to possibly save a life. There is the conventional: currently I am helping implement a central line curriculum to educate incoming medical interns; and then there is the unconventional: passing out mints to doctors who forgot to wash their hands with notes attached that read: “I’m sure you mint to wash your hands”.
Whatever the case, IU Health’s many moving parts never allows for a dull moment. I was fortunate enough (or misfortunate enough) to be witness the Joint Commission unannounced inspection –an event that usually only happens once every few years. Joint Commission is the national accreditation body responsible for assessing hospitals and confirming they meet good practice standards. Licensure is on the line when Joint Commission visits, which means absolutely everything. Although IU Heath is one of the leading facilities in the nation, with so many rules and regulations, it is easy for a few items to slip through the cracks. And when Joint Commission visits, a little crack sealing is required, such as buying all plastic containers larger than 3’x2’x0.5’ in the downtown area and racing through the hospital and placing them to meet a forgotten health code. I am currently serving on the task force addressing the recommendations left by the Joint Commission in hopes of making the hospital as safe as it should be.
I have been fortunate for this opportunity to peel back the layers of this amazing network of healthcare. I would like to thank the IU Health Scholars program, Mrs. Jill Rogers, and Mr. Steven Jones for making this opportunity possible. I would also like to thank Dr. Ryan Nagy and the entire Infection Prevention Team for being so warm and welcoming to their work and projects.