Quad Cities, IL/IA

Working with the community... for a healthier community.

United Mission Keep Patients Safe and Healthy


Submitted by Mississippi Valley Surgery Center

As a self-described “clean freak,” it’s not surprising Barb Garnica is the Manager of Safety and Environment Services at the Mississippi Valley Surgery Center. She started working at the Davenport-based outpatient surgery center in 1996 as a registered nurse. When Barb’s supervisor needed someone to help her track infection rates, Barb volunteered for the added responsibility and flourished in the role. Today she oversees the center’s safety and infection prevention program to ensure patients have an exceptional — and more important — safe experience.

“I’ve always been a clean freak, so it’s not surprising I ended up in a role like this,” said Barb. “Once I start cleaning at home, my family wonders if I’m ever going to stop!”

Putting her skills to work, the safety and infection prevention program Barb developed for the Quad Cities largest multi-specialty outpatient surgery center plays a critical role in ensuring patients are safe and comfortable. This is no small feat. The infection prevention program is a comprehensive program that includes ongoing observation, investigation, and prevention measures to control infections and communicable diseases. The program breaks down into four key areas:

  • Hand hygiene: The most important way to prevent the spread of infections at the Surgery Center. Staff members lather the backs of their hands, between fingers, and under their nails for at least 20 seconds under warm running water.
  • Following safe injection practices: Using one needle, one syringe, only one time. Needles and syringes are single-use devices. To minimize infection, they should not be used for more than one patient or reused to draw additional medication.
    Two patient identifiers: As part of a Surgical “Safety Checklist” the staff asks patients to identify themselves with “two patient identifiers” — name and date of birth. This improves the reliability of the patient’s identification process and also helps ensure that a correct match is made between the service or treatment and the individual.
  • Monitoring surgical site infections: Though every precaution is made to prevent infection from happening, they do — on occasion — occur. Each surgeon is required to report monthly, surgical site infections and any complications their patients may have developed. This information is thoroughly reviewed and monitored for trends; to measure quality and performance; and identify opportunities for improvement.

As a result of these policies, the infection rates at the Mississippi Valley Surgery Center are very low. For example, in the third quarter of 2015, the number of surgeries that resulted in infections was at only 0.15 percent.

“I coordinate everything, but it’s everyone’s responsibility,” said Barb. “Everyone here is very passionate about their professions and goes above and beyond to ensure patient safety and making sure they have a good outcome.”

Surgery Center employees complete a comprehensive onboarding process that includes training on how to keep themselves and patients safe. “We cover everything from how to wash your hands, how to prevent the spreading of blood-borne pathogens, how to dispose of syringes and needles, the importance of staying at home if you’re sick, and how to clean surgery rooms in between patients,” said Barb. In addition, there are ongoing education sessions that take place on a regular basis to keep the Surgery Center team up-to-date on safety policies and review hygiene practices.

While the Surgery Center and local hospitals largely follow the same federal safety guidelines when it comes to infection control, there are safety benefits to choosing the Surgery Center over a local hospital for elective procedures.

“As an outpatient facility, we have the option of screening patients before the procedure to make sure they are in good health and aren’t exposing others to communicable diseases,” said Barb. “This doesn’t only help the patient recover quicker, it also reduces the risk of infection for everyone else. Hospitals don’t have that option.”

In addition, patients are only in the Surgery Center half-a-day or 23 hours at the most. As a result, the chances of infection are less than in a hospital because the time for exposure is greatly reduced.

While Barb and her team do everything in their power to keep the Surgery Center a comfortable and safe environment for everyone, patients also play a role. “Infection prevention is everyone’s job,” said Barb. “Each of us has an important role to play in keeping patients safe and free from infection and harm. Patients should let health care providers know if they are sick or have underlying health problems before undergoing any procedure. It’s also very important to follow clean hygiene practices after being discharged to prevent infections.”

Barb also recommends sleeping in clean bedding while the surgical wound is still healing and limiting contact with pets, which may be carrying diseases on them. If the doctor instructs patients to change bandages, hands should be washed prior and after. On the other side — if instructed to leave dressing alone, Barb encourages patients to do so — no peeking!

Above all, patients should know they can speak up to ensure safe practices are being followed. “It’s okay to ask the nurse if he or she has washed their hands, or if they have questions or concerns about the care they’re getting,” said Barb. “Don’t be afraid to speak up if you have questions or concerns.”

To learn more about the Mississippi Valley Surgery Center and its safety and the infection control program, go to www.mvhealth.net and like them on Facebook at facebook.com/MississippiValleySurgeryCenter.

How to Minimize Infection This Winter

Barb Garnica, Manager of Safety and Environment Services at the Mississippi Valley Surgery Center, has one tip for people who want to stay healthy this cold and flu season — wash your hands!

“It’s such a simple thing to do, but it makes a huge difference,” said Barb. “People cough and sneeze in their hands all the time and if they don’t wash their hands on a regular basis, diseases start to spread. It’s a small change that can really help prevent infection.”

Here are some simple things you can do to stay healthy this winter:

  • Wash your hands. Handwashing is like a “do-it-yourself” vaccine and is a simple step you can take to reduce the spread of illnesses so you can stay healthy.
  • Stay warm. Shivering depresses the immune system and this makes us more likely to catch colds.
  • Avoid crowded areas with little ventilation that make catching a cold more likely.
  • Stay hydrated. Water helps the kidneys function properly and flushes out the toxins that accumulate in our bodies. Try to drink at least eight glasses of water every day.
  • Stay well-rested. Lack of sleep makes us more prone to infection.
  • Stay active. Apart from keeping our circulation going, regular moderate exercise will help your body ward of infection.
  • Take vitamins. Taking a daily multivitamin is especially important in the winter when we may be less likely to be eating enough fresh fruit and vegetables, and are also more at risk for infection.