Medline’s CNO, Martie Moore: This year’s flu outbreak

Becker's Hospital Review caught up with Martie Moore, RN, MAOM, CPHQ, CNO for Medline, to discuss this year's flu outbreak and strategies hospitals are deploying to protect employees, patients and communities.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity.

Question: How has/is Medline responding to the recent flu outbreak? 

Martie Moore, RN: Medline works closely with healthcare providers across the country to ensure they have the supplies they need to create safe patient areas as well as protect staff from influenza.  The course of action is three-fold:

  • Support of care providers can be done by tracking trends across the nation and in other countries of the types of infectious diseases, identify what types of testing are being done, and determine the severity of illnesses and what the course of action should be to protect and prevent.
  • Offer personal protective equipment products that support practice and are intuitive to use. This includes ensuring masks, gloves, eye protection and gowns are available and in use to protect employees, patients and their visitors. 
  • Promote the importance of a comprehensive surface cleaning program to reduce and/or eliminate viral and bacterial transmission. Through Medline's ERASE PATHOGENS program, we partner with customers to help identify the risks in their facility and where there is room for cleaning improvement. We then help them put in place evidence-based products, education and training, and measures to track cleaning effectiveness. Our clean-by-sequence booklet helps to guide the cleaning team from surface to surface to make sure no patient area is missed.

 

Q: What are some of the best ways you've been seeing hospitals and health systems respond to this public health crisis? 

MM: Flu prevention is a larger community initiative and requires participation from everyone in order to prevent it from spreading. Health systems are hubs for building healthy communities; I've seen them work closely with clubs, schools, churches, shopping malls and other places where the public gathers to offer flu vaccination drive-by stations. They have flu reduction stations throughout their facilities that make it easy for people to do hand hygiene, cover coughs and sneezes, wear masks and use products to clean surfaces. Additionally, PSA announcements have been developed to help their community understand how the influenza virus is spread, how to boost immunity and stay healthy.

Q: What can hospitals and clinics do to protect their staff? 

MM: The assumption of guilty until proven innocent has to be the actionable step taken to protect employees. Meaning that employees need to be encouraged to wear eye protection, masks and protective gowns all times, before symptoms and tests are identified as positive for influenza. Making it easy to wipe down surfaces and minimize hand cross contamination is another action step. 

Healthcare workers are extremely dedicated to patient care and often work 12-hour shifts. The long hours can have a negative impact on the immune system and make staff more vulnerable to contagious illnesses like the flu. It is important for healthcare leaders to promote rest and immunity-boosting activities. I've seen some hospitals offer their staff kits to help keep themselves and their families healthy. The kits include flu reduction items, such as germicidal wipes to use on areas where the influenza virus might be harboring, as well as easy and fun-to-use hand sanitizer to promote hand hygiene among all members of the family. Lastly, stop-the-spread masks that family members can wear when they are caring for a sick individual within the household.

Q: What lessons can we learn from this year's flu season? 

MM: We hold a fundamental bias about the flu. We see it as an inevitable illness to which there is little that can be done to prevent illness and outbreaks. Yet, pandemic preparedness is something we must be thinking about, planning for and ready to respond to, whether it's a national, state or local crisis. This year's flu season exemplified where our systems are fragile and what needs to be addressed so they can improve their response. Systems of communication, systems of public health response and coordination amongst private and public spectrum are just some examples. We have come a long way with hand hygiene and now have a whole generation where using it is just a normal part of daily living. We must continue to strive to incorporate protective measures beyond hand hygiene to decrease transmission into public daily actions. The public fear of this year's flu season has led to an increase in retail sales for flu masks. However, there is more we can do to increase the awareness of the mask and make it more culturally acceptable to wear.  

Q: Any final thoughts as we wrap up?

MM: I remember my mother falling into my arms, short of breath, fever raging through her body, coughing. I remember seeing her pale, frail body lying on the Emergency Department stretcher.  I told the team, I suspected it was influenza. I was told the flu season was over. I demanded that they test both her and my father as they had been traveling and the incubation period fit with the symptoms. They both were positive for Influenza B. We must not assume that the influenza virus follows a calendar. We must protect those we care for and ourselves by promoting an attitude of vigilance on breaking the cycle of transmission. Assume nothing, protect all.

For more information from Medline about pathogens and the role of environmental services to help prevent the spread, see this YouTube video here.

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