In an effort to strengthen infection control, Senior Nursing Personnel in KKH have come together to combat ‘familiarity blindness’ and improve hygiene standards.

While assigning roles for non-clinical Senior Nursing Personnel (SNP) in charge of areas such as education, research, quality control or patient experience to the wards, KKH Deputy Director of Nursing Dr Chia Yen Yen chanced upon an opportunity for them to heighten the hospital’s infection control and hygiene standards, as well as ensure consistency of best practices.

A discussion with other nursing staff and the Operational Support Service Division then gave rise to the idea of a Duster Buster team led by all SNPs. The objective was to empower the team to proactively look out for blind spots at work, combating what is known as ‘familiarity blindness’. The effort was launched in January 2016.

Dr Chia explained, “Familiarity blindness happens when you become immune to pervasive problems at work due to their constant occurrences. To counter this, the Duster Buster team members are allocated work in areas outside their usual departments to lend fresh eyes to identify potential infection control issues.”

For example, an Operating Theatre SNP is assigned to the Women’s 24-Hour Clinic or Children’s Emergency Department. The SNP will then focus on identifying areas for thorough cleaning and setting achievable desired standards with before-and-after photographs, documented on a common drive that is accessible by all Nurse Managers, Nurse Clinicians and SNPs.

"Familiarity blindness happens when you become immune to pervasive problems at work due to their constant occurrences."

— Dr Chia Yen Yen, Deputy Director, Nursing, KKH

These efforts are guided by weekly themes or focus areas such as nurses’ stations, consultation rooms, procedure trolleys or medication carts, which provide a systematic review for all spaces across the hospital.

In implementing this project, the team of 24 SNPs worked closely with other nurses and staff from Environmental Services, Biomedical Engineering and Information Systems. A Principal Human Factor Specialist was also  roped in to share his perspectives on how to promote compliance.

“We found that one of the challenges was instilling a sense of responsibility in staff, patients and caregivers in maintaining the cleanliness of the wards. If we keep thinking that there is someone else to clean up after us, then nobody will do it,” explained Dr Chia.

Now in its sixth month, the efforts of the Duster Buster team have resulted in several new initiatives, including setting instructions for regular cleaning and maintenance of point of care equipment, replacing cardboard blood box separators with acrylic ones that are easier to clean and last longer, replacing bed sheets on patient couches with paper covers, and improving labelling of storage areas.

This is the first time that the Division of Nursing has embarked on a project of this scale. “This was a successful initiative because we worked together in synergy and in collaboration with our colleagues from other departments,” Dr Chia said.

“The SNPs were already working with other departments before the Duster Buster effort was initiated, but now they have raised the consciousness of cleanliness and hygiene several notches higher.”