Using Retired Infection Preventionists to Address Staffing Shortages

The organizations and their full-time employees both benefited from the PRN IPs.

Infection prevention programs play an essential role in healthcare settings, as they ensure everything is being done to prevent the possibility of infections.

With a workforce that is coming closer to retirement age, infection prevention (IP) programs are facing staffing shortages due to issues recruiting and retaining incoming preventionists.

Investigators from the healthcare organization Ascension Texas recently sought to assess using retired IPs working remotely in an as needed (PRN) status to support centralized surveillance as part of a plan to address staffing shortages.

The data was presented at the 2021 Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology conference virtual sessions.

For the assessment, the investigators looked at IP department staffing at a 1,543 licensed bed hospital system in Texas. They then employed a staffing model to increase on-site IP capacity during a period of increased IP program demand using retired IPs.

The investigators found that there was roughly 1 IP for every 171 licensed beds and that requests for additional full-time IPs were deferred because of constraints due to COVID-19.

Findings from the assessment demonstrated that the retired IPs did not require any onboarding or training because of their prior knowledge and that both the organizations employing the IPs and the IPs themselves preferred the PRN status instead of being full or part time.

Additionally, the full-time IPs who were employed by the organization reported an increased availability for unit-based activities due to the PRN retired IPs.

“Use of retiring IPs as remote centralized surveillance support is a viable model to increase the capacity of hospital-based IPs on a short or intermediate-term basis,” the authors wrote. “In departments with lean staffing complements, reducing surveillance burden can also ease the training demand of new novice or becoming proficient IPs and support retention of new staff.”