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Your Secret Weapon in War on HAIs

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, October 1, 2012

We hear a lot about "employee engagement" in healthcare human resources.

Unfortunately, in many hospitals, efforts to engage staff may vary depending upon the job title. Most of the engagement talk appears to be directed at nurses, which is understandable, considering how expensive it is to recruit and retain nurses.

However, getting nurses and other highly skilled clinicians to buy into the mission does not mean that lower-tiered staff should be ignored. No hospital or any business can say truly that it has engaged employees unless all its workers are engaged.

One class of workers that engagement efforts have generally ignored is the cleaning crew. But that appears to be changing as more hospitals understand the difficulties and costs of fighting hospital-acquired infections and the positive and immediate effects that an engaged and informed cleaning staff can have on that fight.

Maryn McKenna, author of Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA, and a noted blogger on hospital-acquired infections, says she is seeing attitudes change as hospital leaders come to understand that it is easier and more cost-effective to prevent these increasingly common and alarmingly drug-resistant and life-threatening HAIs on the front end than it is to treat patients after they become infected. 

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