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  • Writer's pictureLilian Chiwera

My #SSIPrevention & #IPCWithoutBorders

Surgical site infection (SSI) surveillance & prevention has been my focus for at least 13 years now. I don't think anything will ever replace my passion for making a difference for our surgical patients through #SSIPrevention. It will always be my number 1 priority, but #COVID has certainly ignited another passion of mine. That passion is to make a difference for all our patients globally, not only from an #SSI perspective but also from a generic #InfectionPrevention perspective. I like this hashtag, which was started by Debbie Xuereb from Malta, #IPCWithoutBorders. Debbie and others within the Infection Prevention Society (IPS) had a very good vision on this concept way before this current pandemic hit. Now with this global pandemic, comes a stark reminder that those stubborn infections don’t respect borders. Therefore, for us in #InfectionPrevention, we’re learning to think more outside of the box i.e. to not just look at IPC from within our borders only but certainly look at #SSIPrevention, generic #InfectionPrevention, #IPC #PatientSafety and other humanitarian issues from a global perspective; something the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been trying to promote over many years. I very much appreciate Claire Kilpatrick & Julie Storr’s contributions to global IPC so far. You keep inspiring me & I so look forward to learning more from you.

My #IPCWithoutBorders

Neil, my previous boss gave me an opportunity to attend Surgical Infection Society Europe conferences. It was an eye opener! Not only was it my first time presenting #SSIPrevention work outside the UK, it was also my first time to see a group of passionate/dedicated surgeons looking to make an impact in surgical infection prevention and management globally; apart from our own surgeons from GSTT of course 😊. I met and now have so many connections from all over the world, Europe (Turkey, Spain, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Ireland), USA, Asia & Africa. This really started to increase my global IPC passion and have never looked back since then.

I must thank the Hospital Infection Society (HIS) for hosting an important #IPC online conference last year (2020). I started a conversation with Felicity Fitzgerald after discovering she was presenting #IPC work she had undertaken with colleagues at a neonatal unit in Zimbabwe. Wow this got me so excited. If you know me well, you’ll appreciate that I always like to take advantage of any opportunities for collaborative working aimed at improving #SSIPrevention or any #PatientSafety agenda. In 2019, prior to #COVID, I had been planning to undertake a PhD in Surgical Site Infection Surveillance and Prevention #SSIPrevention with a focus on Caesarean Section (CS). I wanted to look at #SSI from a global perspective and had put Zimbabwe as a potential country to include in that piece of work. See my previous CS blog here. So, I thought it was an opportunity to discuss my proposals with Felicity and get her thoughts on CS SSI work in Zimbabwe. What followed next was a series of conversations which ended up with Felicity introducing me to Marcelyn Magwenzi, a Microbiologist and University Lecturer who is actively involved with the Infection Control Association of Zimbabwe (ICAZ). Let's just say the journey so far has been magical. Linking up with the wonderful Rafaela Franca, we have so far had a couple meetings with Marcelyn & ICAZ committee members and have exciting plans of us. I thank the #IPS for agreeing to collaborate with ICAZ, a true testimony of what a great and welcoming society IPS is! As I’m writing this blog, I’m thinking of how I’m going to finish my IPC surveillance talk for Zimbabwe University students aspiring to change the IPC game in the country. I share a few happy faces from our previous interactions so far 😊.

Well, it’s all so exciting in global #IPC. So many opportunities to network. I have certainly had the privilege of also talking to one global IPC expert from Romania, Ramona Marincas. Ramona has been instrumental in bringing together a group of nurses and doctors to set up an #InfectionPrevention Society in Romania; that is working hard to improve all aspects of IPC in that country. Ramona told me that Carole Hallam and many others from the Infection Prevention Society & others in & outside the UK gave her so much support and confidence to purse this and in her own words, ‘it’s pointless to acquire knowledge and keep it yourself, you need to share it’. I’m certainly looking forward to learning more from Ramona as we continue IPC work not only in Zimbabwe, but in many other countries globally. I will not keep my knowledge to myself, I will share it readily with others, thanks Ramona!

Another event that is inspiring me to look at global #IPC is a FOAN online conference I bumped into after Fitwise kindly shared details of the event via email. I didn’t know that there was work going on in Africa on perioperative practice education & empowerment of nurses there, see. I was even further astounded when talking to Kate Woodhead this weekend, learning how it all began, the challenges experienced so far and the joy that comes with knowing what a difference one is making to patient safety globally. Wow!! I’m keen to get Zimbabwe being part of FOAN and will certainly be doing all I can to facilitate relevant links to be established.

So, what next…

Well, this last week something happened that I never dreamt of. It was almost like a clash of the #SSI & #IPC giants in a nice way lol! 😊. I have worked with Melissa Rochon with the Cardiac SSI network for many years whilst helping her to set up work in cardiac SSI surveillance and prevention. Never did I think that a couple of years later we’d end up working in the same trust. To top it up, one of the greatest IPC experts I know, Jon Otter is now our Director of IPC at GSTT. We found ourselves in one virtual room discussing where we want to take #SSISurveillance & #SSIPrevention going forward. I must thank Neil Wigglesworth for his support over the years preparing me for such a time as this. All I can say is watch out world! 😊. Someone else who inspired me this last week was Pixy Strazds. I only asked a few minutes of her time to say hello but what I got from the interaction is a million’s worth of life and #IPC advice, thank you!! See, you always get so much more than what you pay for your IPS subscription.

What can I say? Now with many connections from the UK, Europe, USA, Australia, Asia & Africa; I feel unstoppable in my quest to at least do what’s within my power, together with others to spread important #SSIPrevention, #IPC and generic #PatientSafety messages across the globe.

Yes - exciting times ahead!

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