So why is hand washing and being vaccinated so important when it comes to the wellbeing of our older community members?
- Preventing infections means that we don’t have to prescribe antibiotics, which can cause other problems for a person who has to take them.
- Vaccines play a really important role in our infection prevention program.
- You can’t use antibiotics to treat a virus.
- Remember the importance of good hand hygiene.
Meet Michelle, Infection Prevent and Control specialist
Michelle Bibby is a Registered Nurse from Infection Prevention Australia currently working with VMCH. She is a registered nurse who has undertaken additional training in Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) and has been providing her services for over 15 years.
She says the IPC specialty has really been highlighted in 2020 with the pandemic, however it has always been important.
“All of my work before the pandemic was to try and make sure that residences were safe and were doing absolutely everything to make sure they minimised the risk of infection transmission, and always improving our residents’ and patients’ outcomes.
“Preventing infections is really important particularly in the older population, as we age and have other medical conditions, our body’s own immune system doesn’t always provide us with as good protection as it used to, so my job is to try and make sure we have everything else in place to protect it, including vaccines.”
How is your work beneficial to VMCH’s clients, residents and staff members?
“Preventing infections means that we don’t have to prescribe antibiotics, which can cause other problems for a person who has to take them. Preventing infections and outbreaks means we don’t have to isolate our residents so they don’t miss out on seeing their families. Infections can make people feel really sick, can cause a lot of pain and really impact on the quality of life of a person.”
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Why are infections problematic for those we care for? Aren’t infections normal and be treated easily?
“The more we can prevent infections means the less antibiotics we have to use. Over-use of antibiotics is a major problem in health care, including aged care. Preventing infections is much better than trying to treat them. A lot of the normal bugs that we could once treat with basic antibiotics no longer work as we have over used them and now the bugs have become resistant.”
What about vaccines? Are they really necessary for visitors?
“Absolutely. Our residents don’t have as strong an immune system as you and I, therefore vaccines play a really important role in our infection prevention program. We could get influenza and it would make us very unwell, but it is potentially life threatening for our residents. We forget that in 2019 we had a high number of deaths from the flu across Australia.”
Should we also be vaccinating our clients and residents?
“Yes, for the very same reason. We must remember that you cannot treat a respiratory tract infection with antibiotics as they are caused by a virus, so the only other thing we can do is vaccinate and adhere to our IPC policies.”
Can we trust a COVID vaccine that has been produced so quickly?
“We have to have trust that our governing bodies such as the TGA will be doing absolutely everything to make sure it is safe.”
How will the COVID vaccine help to keep our clients and residents safe?
“The vaccine provides us with another layer of protection, but that doesn’t mean we stop doing all of the other important things, like staying home if you’re sick, going and getting a test, maintaining physical distancing and washing your hands.”
“We should also remember the importance of good hand hygiene. This is the simplest most effective thing we can do to protect ourselves and the ones we love. Always do hand hygiene on entry to the residence before visiting, and when you leave. It is so important.”