Infectious Enthusiasm: CDC Hospital Training Sparks Lifesaving Change In Georgia (March 18-19)
At a busy hospital in Kutaisi, a simple but lifesaving idea is spreading. At the epicenter are a diverse and lively team of women – nurses, physicians, epidemiologists, and leaders – who have embraced the concept of infection prevention and control (IPC) to reduce the risk of dangerous and deadly healthcare-associated infections.
Sparked by a training course offered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the women have become an unstoppable force for change within their hospital. Their story is a shining example of how sharing knowledge of basic IPC practices –like hand hygiene and injection safety – can have far-reaching impact across the country of Georgia and beyond.
Big change from small beginnings
The change began with Anjela Orjonikidze, general director at West Georgia Medical Center, part of Georgia’s largest hospital network. As the hospital expanded its number of beds and services, she wanted staff to better identify problems, gaps, and challenges that could put patients at risk for infection. “In Georgia, our health services market is still developing. And I have the feeling that we still have some healthcare-related risks,” she says. “How are they going to be identified unless we have enough knowledge, education, and supervision for all the required processes?”
Marika Geleishvili, a physician and IPC expert from the CDC office in Tbilisi, was anxious to meet the hospital’s need. Her work is part of a larger partnership begun in 2015 between CDC Georgia, experts from CDC’s Atlanta headquarters, and the EVEX hospital network to bolster IPC practices in the country.
Across Georgia and the region, healthcare personnel is rarely trained in IPC practices, and these gaps in knowledge can have consequences that reach far beyond any one hospital. Lack of IPC skills can lead to widespread healthcare-associated infections and outbreaks that could impact the whole country and cross borders, threatening global public health.
Marika began working alongside the head of medical quality assurance and management, Nino Butskhrikidze, to develop a program that would offer training to dramatically improve patient safety by adopting basic IPC practices. Since the training, hospital staff affectionately refer to Marika as their “Mama of Infection Control.”
A team with one spirit
In the halls of the hospital, the new knowledge of IPC practices began to inspire action. The women coalesced into a passionate team of evangelists who, over long and late hours filled with shared food and support, hashed out ways to translate the IPC training into practices that would work for them within their system.
Fati Kavtaradze, the clinic’s chief nurse notes, “The training helped us find one another. It is also changing the dynamics between clinicians and nurses. Today, it’s more about being colleagues. They are now taking into account our recommendations.”
For these women, IPC became more than just sharing daily reminders to wash hands or clean up potentially germy surfaces. It became a way of life that led them to re-evaluate every single routine and tradition. One nurse recalled how the training even made her look with fresh eyes at the Christmas tree they put each year in the ICU.
“We can’t have this Christmas tree in the ICU,” she had told one of the doctors. “It has germs.”
At first, the doctor fought her. She would attempt to remove the tree, but he would replace it, saying the tree was a tradition. To prove her point once and for all, she washed the tree and showed him the resulting dirty water. “See?”
The tree came down.
The nurse noted that the CDC training had made her feel confident enough to take a stand. The whole team agreed that having the tools they needed to solve the problem gave them more courage and helped them feel empowered to push aside obstacles.
Pride in progress
The women are intensely proud of their progress. They are slowly overcoming the previous resistance to change – getting rid of the old (and dangerous) idea that acknowledging hospital-acquired infections could have negative implications for the hospital. They recognize that the way to improve patient safety is to learn as much as you can and apply it everywhere you can.
The hospital has grown over the past few years, adding additional beds to incorporate a mother and child division and a pediatric emergency division. Now the third referral hospital in West Georgia, the hospital knows how important it is to minimize healthcare-related risks to offer the highest possible level of care.
The women leading the charge on IPC do so without extra funding or pay; they are sparked by determination and fueled by the lifesaving potential of the work. The team remains a source of inspiration as they realize the impact they’re making for health in their country.
“I am more diligent, more enthusiastic with more knowledge, because I have a fantastic team next to me,” says Iza Gabunua, an epidemiologist on the team. “I am very open to saying that our IPC team has resulted from this program, and it is one of the strongest in the country. And I really take pride in that.”
“I have met amazing people,” adds Lela Tsakadze, a physician and chief epidemiologist. “They are people who are writing infection control history in the country of Georgia. And I just want to take this opportunity to thank CDC.”
About this story:
CDC communication staff from Atlanta visited Kutaisi, Georgia to meet the team of women and learn firsthand how their IPC knowledge and passion is shaping processes and policies throughout the country and region. The story is part of a series of articles focusing on the people and partnerships driving public health progress in Georgia and the region through CDC’s in-country presence over the past decade.
Learn more about this work:
- West Georgia Medical Center