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Cheri Fast, RN, BSN, CIC | South Dakota Project FirstLine 

Infection prevention and control is fundamental to safer care, improved health outcomes and a reduction in costs. Great Plains Quality Innovation Network (Great Plains QIN) and Project Firstline Leads in South Dakota are working together to help prevent, mitigate and respond to infections through education, resource sharing and technical assistance. For those looking to implement an infection prevention plan or identify gaps in current practices, Project Firstline is a ‘go to’ resource for the Great Plains QIN quality improvement team.

Project Firstline partners in South Dakota are the South Dakota Foundation for Medical Care (SDFMC), the South Dakota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Great Plains QIN is the Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organization (QIN-QIO) for North Dakota and South Dakota. Cheri Fast is the Project Lead in South Dakota.

Below is a recap of a conversation with Fast to get a ‘Behind the Scenes’ look at Project Firstline resources and activity throughout the state.

Cheri FastWhat is Project Firstline?
CDC Project Firstline is a national collaborative of diverse healthcare, public health and academic partners committed to providing infection control training designed especially for healthcare workers. Project Firstline is funded through the American Rescue Plan investments.

Why did you get involved?
I have always had an interest in infections. My interest peaked when I helped with an antibiotic stewardship campaign. With the COVID-19 pandemic, accurate information, supported by science and evidenced-based practices, is essential. The pandemic provides an opportunity to educate and reeducate on the importance of infection control.

Why is this important?
This work is more important than ever. Since obtaining my infection control certification, I am more aware of how the environment factors into the transmission of infections; the simplest intervention can make a big impact in reducing the spread of infection. We all, healthcare or not, have the power to reduce the transmission of infection in our homes and our communities.

What training and education is available nationally and for South Dakota?
Project Firstline delivers comprehensive, transparent, and responsive training to the millions of frontline healthcare workers in the US. The best part is the trainings are customized for South Dakota – catering to the needs and gaps in our state. We surveyed nearly 1,900 individuals (hospitals and clinics, long-term care facilities, public service entities, schools, and prisons) to identify training needs. Trainings include handwashing, proper cleaning protocols, COVID-19 preparedness, virus spread and respiratory droplets.

Trainings are short, customizable and can be accessed anytime. Each training module includes a certificate of completion and continuing education credit. Resources are also available in Spanish on the South Dakota Project Firstline website and the national Project Firstline website.

What is the biggest benefit for healthcare workers?
Cleaning and disinfection are important elements in reducing infections in all care facilities. Our goal is for as many frontline workers as possible to complete the training. Facilities and individuals can complete the online training and we offer onsite training upon request.

Nancy McDonald, RN, BSN, CPHQ - Director of Quality Improvement“I was surprised how quick and easy it was to do the Project Firstline trainings. The CDC videos were short; yet packed with great information. I learned so much from each module. I encourage anyone who wants to know the latest on protecting themselves and others from COVID, flu and other emerging infectious diseases – to take this training.” – Nancy McDonald, Director of Quality Improvement; South Dakota Foundation for Medical Care (pictured).

What Is the biggest benefit for individuals and family members?
South Dakota is not immune to the impacts of COVID-19. We know we can do better and potentially reduce harm and save lives through awareness and education. The more frontline workers that complete the training, the greater impact we can have on improving the care and health outcomes for residents in our state. Keeping our frontline safe keeps all of us safe. There are also trainings on proper cleaning tactics, which can be used in our homes.

What are you most proud of?
First and foremost, the success of our statewide learning needs assessment; we know what our frontline workers need and are bringing that knowledge to them.

Project Firstline SD Graphic of CommunicationsWe have created an awareness of infection prevention through our marketing outreach. This campaign includes telling the Project Firstline story through the media, speaking at conferences, through the launch of a new website and our social media presence. I work closely with Charlotte Hofer, Marketing Director, who has given me new perspective in how infections are perceived by the public. A key strategy in South Dakota was to use the power of the media to amplify our message – we did TV interviews, radio shows and magazine features. Our promotional efforts enabled us to reach an estimated 80 percent of the residents in our state, from our large population centers to our smallest rural markets, helping us to get out life-saving information to healthcare first responders and the public that keeps all of us safer. We have had other states reach out to us for guidance on their marketing outreach, which is exciting.

What are your next steps and big picture goals?
One of the greatest opportunities to improve the health of medical professionals, their patients and the public at large is the ability to properly control the spread of infection in clinical settings. Infection control is a top priority for healthcare professionals and organizations across South Dakota and the globe. We want to help create a culture shift where infection prevention practices become universal by healthcare workers and first responders.

Great Plains QIN has been a valuable partner; their quality improvement team has been supportive and helpful in sharing trainings and resources with the healthcare community. We held a Webinar event on cleaning protocols in December; attendees expressed a desire for additional trainings on related topics. We held a Project Firstline Webinar in February to discuss the practical application of infection prevention strategies. We will continue to identify ways to collaborate, create joint learning opportunities and share infection prevention resources with the healthcare community in our region.

Featured in National QI Times Publication | March 2, 2022