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Infection Prevention Week is from Oct. 16-22, 2022. This year’s theme is: “The Future is Infection Prevention: 50 Years of Infection Prevention.” 

At UW Medicine, Infection Prevention & Control teams promote patient safety by preventing infectious diseases and minimizing their spread. They do so by analyzing data, interpreting infectious disease trends, implementing evidence-based interventions, developing policies and educating staff. Infection Preventionists are tasked with monitoring and reducing the incidence of hospital-acquired infections, mitigating infectious diseases that may come from outside their facility, promoting the appropriate use of antibiotics and evaluating the safety of the hospital environment from an infection prevention perspective. 

We asked Bonnie Decker, MPH, BSN, RN, an infection preventionist at Harborview Medical Center, to reflect on this year’s theme, as well as continue the conversation on the importance of infection prevention in care settings.

What do you love most about your job?

I am endlessly curious about my job and love that I learn many new things every day. I also feel incredibly fortunate to work with talented, thoughtful colleagues across all departments. Harborview Medical Center is a truly special place to be, and I feel thankful every day I walk through our doors.

What does this year’s theme “The Future is Infection Prevention” mean to you?

Many people think of infectious disease work as stopping outbreaks, but the future of infection prevention would mean leveraging technology and evidence-based practice to prevent infections in the first place. I am excited for Infection Prevention & Control to increasingly shift to the “prevention” side.

What is the No. 1 thing you want people to know about infection prevention? 

I’d like people to truly understand that engaging early and consistently in even basic infection prevention practices can have a significant impact in keeping patients safe. It can take a single moment of poor hand hygiene to give someone a healthcare-associated infection (HAI). It takes thousands of moments of excellent hand hygiene to keep a person safe during their entire hospital stay. We often don’t see the good work we do.

What would you say to those who are skeptical about the validity of infectious diseases and how to prevent them?

I’d point to the longstanding history of infectious disease professionals before me and all of their amazing scientific discoveries. I’d encourage an interest (dare I say admiration?) in the resilience of microorganisms and the many creative ways humans have tried to counter them. I would try to instill in them the same curiosity and fascination I’ve had about this subject for most of my life.