When Barbara DeBaun, RN, MSN, CIC (certified in infection control), was growing up, she never imagined becoming an infection preventionist. But after she had been working as a nurse for a few years, her chief nurse pulled her aside and asked if she would like to work in the field. She said yes because she was afraid to say no, DeBaun told the publication Infection Control Today.
Now, for more than 30 years, DeBaun has enjoyed a career that she says allows her to use her investigative skills, learn something new each day, and — most importantly — help save lives and reduce harm to patients. As the improvement advisor for Beacon, the Bay Area Patient Safety Collaborative, she helps its 39 San Francisco Bay Area hospitals implement and share evidence-based practices for enhancing patient safety.
Her accomplishments are numerous. The 2008 Infection Control Today Educator of the Year is also an active member of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. She has given lectures around the world on infection prevention issues and published numerous articles and several book chapters.
Never a Dull MomentBarbara DeBaun, RN
Preventing infections from happening may not make headline news, but infection preventionists’ jobs are anything but boring. People who are leading the efforts in patient safety are overwhelmed with competing priorities, DeBaun explains. As part of the Beacon facilities’ agreement for receiving grant money from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the hospitals are required to submit various outcomes data — such as on sepsis, stroke mortality, falls, and Clostridium difficile — to demonstrate improvement. This can be an added burden when considering the many other agencies that request or require data submission, DeBaun adds.
Also, a new problem really brings out everything that we know how to do — confirming the diagnosis, making sure we know what we are dealing with, and really using our epidemiological skills like Sherlock Holmes, she told Infection Control Today.
Into the Limelight
Infection preventionists have found themselves thrust into the limelight recently due to increased media coverage of outbreaks like severe acute respiratory syndrome, norovirus, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Also, with reimbursement drying up for the treatment of some hospital-acquired infections, the work of infection preventionists is getting more attention than ever, DeBaun says.
However, she sees these challenges as an opportunity. It is a great time for infection preventionists, she says. They are in a great position to lead the patient safety efforts.