More than 300 Medical and Nursing Students Team Up for Infection Prevention Training

Stritch Infectious Prevention image

It is something we all do every day – or at least, we should: wash our hands. 

For health care professionals, this simple act is also one of the most important skills for preventing the spread of infections and diseases to themselves and others. 

“Hygiene is so simple and because it is so simple, people seem to disqualify it,” said co-Director of Loyola’s Institute of Transformative Interprofessional Education (I-TIE) Fran Vlasses, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, ANEF, FAAN. 

Each fall semester, I-TIE partners with the Stritch School of Medicine and the Niehoff School of Nursing to train nursing and medical students, side-by-side, on infection prevention education. 

"We’re teaching students about infection prevention, while also requiring them to work in high-functioning teams that will benefit them in their career,” said I-TIE co-Director Aaron Michelfelder, MD, FAAFP, FAAMA.  

The inspiration behind the training stems from the 2014 Ebola outbreak. As the virus spread to the United States, academic medical centers, including Loyola, contemplated how to respond should cases appear in their health system.  

While Loyola never treated an Ebola patient, the outbreak generated new conversations among faculty about how to better train students to protect themselves and patients against infections.  

“The thought was, ‘While it’s unlikely our students will be exposed to Ebola, we should educate them on how to protect themselves and their patients from other bacteria and disease,’” Michelfelder said.  

In November 2019, I-TIE held its largest Infection Prevention event to date, with 340 medical and ABSN nursing students. At the start of the training, students are grouped into teams and each team completes a series of team-building activities along with an infection prevention simulation, where students are given an infection and must appropriately don and doff gowns, masks, and gloves to protect themselves and other patients from exposure.  

“The event is so interesting because it forces students to break down the silos separating nurses and doctors,” said Vlasses. “They gain an appreciation of each other’s roles. 

While Vlasses and Michelfelder say interprofessional training is becoming more popular at other institutions, Loyola is one of the only academic medical centers bringing students from multiple campuses to learn about infection prevention. 

“What’s unique about this program is it brings students from two campuses and three different programs together,” said Michelfelder. “We also require it; other schools make it optional.”  

"There’s also a lot of resistance to teaching this kind of content, because everyone thinks they know how to wash their hands,” added Vlasses.  

With the dual focus of health care safety and teamwork, Loyola’s Infection Prevention training goes beyond washing hands to prepare students to tackle the challenges of health care together.  

See photos from the November 2019 Infection Prevention Training