Today in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, findings from a 2021 survey of infection preventionists at 900 US hospitals suggest that strong hospital leadership support led to lower levels of COVID-19 pandemic–related burnout—although half reported burnout—and greater psychological safety.
Researchers at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Administration at the University of Colorado and University of Michigan surveyed 415 infection preventionists at the randomly sampled hospitals from April to December 2021. The survey was part of a project that has been asking the specialists about their hospital's organizational characteristics and infection-prevention protocols every 4 years since 2005.
The researchers noted that, early in COVID-19, infection preventionists had to grapple with risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, rapidly changing information, limited guidance, and scarce personal protective equipment.
"Over time, infection preventionists' roles shifted from training staff to enforcing evolving policies like face shields and contact tracing, which were questioned for their effectiveness and purpose," they wrote. "This shift resulted in many infection preventionists reporting feeling a lack of control and a lack of credibility among staff."
77% reported support in bringing up problems
Among survey respondents, 64% reported very good to excellent hospital support for their infection prevention and control programs, but 49% said they were burned out. Strong hospital support was tied to less burnout (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 0.61), greater perceptions of psychological safety (IRR, 3.20), and a corresponding 1.2 increase in safety climate on an ascending Likert scale from 1 to 10.
Over time, infection preventionists' roles shifted from training staff to enforcing evolving policies like face shields and contact tracing, which were questioned for their effectiveness and purpose.
About 30% of respondents were characterized as having "high psychological safety," and 76% were considered as having a "high safety climate." Over 90% of respondents said they asserted their views, even though their supervisor may disagree, while 77% reported feeling supported in mentioning problems, and 77% said they were comfortable speaking up when they saw a physician not wash his or her hands.
"These findings aid in identifying factors that promote the well-being of infection preventionists and enhance the quality and safety of patient care," the study authors wrote.