February 16, 2015
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Role of hospital epidemiologist growing, more resources needed

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Results from a recent survey indicate that the role of hospital epidemiologists continues to grow, but many respondents do not believe there are enough resources and support to meet the increasing number of demands.

“Hospital epidemiologists have become essential for hospitals in terms of public reporting, improving quality of care, monitoring for antibiotic resistances and preparedness for emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases,” Aaron M. Milstone, MD, MHS, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and associate hospital epidemiologist at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, told Infectious Disease News. “We did this study to shed light on the demands on hospital epidemiologists so that they can make a business case to adequately resource the position.”

Aaron M. Milstone

Milstone and colleagues conducted a survey of members of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America research network, which comprised more than 200 hospitals that conduct research in health care epidemiology. Sixty-nine investigators from 202 institutions responded to the survey, most of whom were hospital epidemiologists. The respondents answered questions about their responsibilities in 2013, and their anticipated responsibilities in 2014.

Most hospital epidemiologists reported no additional resources to support their growing responsibilities and the complexities and challenges of infection prevention programs. Active surveillance culturing for multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs) was one of the most common duties: 90% performed active surveillance for MRSA, 59% for vancomycin-resistant enterococci and 46% for gram-negative MDROs. Nearly all conducted surveillance for central line-associated bloodstream infections (96%), catheter-associated urinary tract infections (93%) and surgical site infections (94%). Seventy-four percent performed surveillance for ventilator-associated pneumonia, and 53% observed ventilator-associated events.

Other responsibilities included monitoring environmental cleaning programs in 80% of the hospitals. Most hospitals (85%) have antimicrobial stewardship programs, and these programs are expected to increase in 2014 for 55% of the hospitals. In 41% of hospitals, influenza immunization for health care workers was mandated.

Milstone said they hope to “resurvey the same group in another year to see how things have changed.” – by Emily Shafer.

Disclosure: Morgan reports consulting for Welch Allyn, Sanogiene/Biomed and 3M. Please see the full study for a list of all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.