Patient Safety Champion: RN Tracey Coombes and 4 North team

Patient Safety champions: Tracey Coombes (left) and members of the Glace Bay Hospital 4 North team.
Patient Safety champions: Tracey Coombes (left) and members of the Glace Bay Hospital 4 North team.

Late last year, our geriatric population was hit hard with the flu. So Tracey Coombes, head nurse on 4North at Glace Bay Hospital, and her team challenged themselves to do better.

“My idea was for long-term care in partnership with Infection Prevention and Control to create a campaign that encourages the staff, residents and their families to get more engaged,” said Coombes.

From many brainstorming sessions came the Get the Facts Not the Flu campaign.

“We launched the campaign as an education and social event; served snacks and tea, handed out ‘stop the flu’ suckers and invited residents, their family members, staff and other long-term care units,” said Coombes.

To continue the conversation on the importance of the flu vaccine, she created an eye-catching, hands-on poster for use in all long-term care units. The poster features a large syringe where a line is filled in when a family member, resident or staff member receives the flu vaccine.

“The poster is the first thing you see when you walk into the unit. Residents love to come by and check how the syringe is filling up. The staff and families get behind it, too. They love to share when they received the vaccine and can draw a line in,” said Coombes. “It builds good rapport with the family. They see the large poster as they walk in the entrance and it starts and continues that conversation."

Coombes and the 4North champions also hosted education sessions on the importance of hand hygiene at long-term care sites in Nova Scotia Health Authority’s eastern zone.

“Infection Control held the first education session. But a couple (of) staff members and I who attended the session took the lead and went on to educate other units ourselves,” Coombes explained. “We didn’t want infection control to take it on. We wanted for us to take this on.”

She received positive feedback from staff who asked for more opportunities to educate others through train-the-trainer sessions.

“It’s great for staff leadership, learning and allows them to interact with other staff,” said Coombes. “It’s good to get out of our own little world and include other long term care units. We are proud of the campaign. It’s great to see all of us coming together for the same goal."

Margaret Graham, hand hygiene auditor with infection prevention and control, nominated Coombes as a Patient Safety Champion.

“Her efforts are shared beyond her unit in the promotion of safety culture. The Get the Facts Not the Flu campaign is an example of one of her creative and collaborative projects to engage residence, families and staff in a health promotion aimed at reducing the spread of flu.”

“It’s all about the hands,” Coombes said. “My staff are doing really well (high 90s for hand hygiene compliance). Hand Hygiene Day is like Christmas to me,” Coombes said with a laugh.

On Hand Hygiene Day, she visits various departments with her fully decorated crash cart, blasting the lyrics to Put Your Hands Up (In The Air), quizzing staff on their hand hygiene and passing out hand-related prizes including nail files, nail clippers and hand gel.

“We go to other units and they will all be waiting for us. It’s a fun way to learn and keep yourself knowledgeable,” said Coombes.

Coombes and 4North staff complete many initiatives with engagement from their residents not only for hand hygiene but also on hydration and mobilization programs.

“4North staff always laugh at me and say ‘oh, she’s got another project,’ ” joked Coombes. “But it’s a team effort. I am lucky, although it might be my idea, it wouldn’t be successful if I didn’t have the team to work with me.

“I think involving everybody, not just one person, is key to success. It’s teamwork and team building. It’s the satisfaction of knowing we are doing our best to promote and sustain the culture of safety,” explained Coombes. “My head’s already spinning about what we will do in 2019!”

Thank you, Tracey – and the rest of the team – for your work to keep patients safe!