Hospital guardians: Meet the team keeping the community safe

Today is International Women’s Day 2021 – a day to acknowledge and celebrate women’s achievements and recognise that we all have a part to play in creating a more inclusive world.

To mark the day, we speak with three women at The Royal Children’s Hospital who have been particularly vital over the past year – Kate O’Donaghue, Jane Tomlinson and Kareena Johnson, our Infection Prevention and Control Clinical Nurse Consultants.

“Part of our role is reviewing infections in patients. Last year was particularly busy as we risk assessed every patient who was confirmed to have COVID-19 and performed contact tracing – including staff, patients and any family or visitors. During our peak we were receiving hundreds of phone calls and emails each day,” Kate said.

“We had many conversations with healthcare workers including those who had to quarantine. The staff were amazing and they completely understood what they needed to do and the important role they were playing.”

Even with the large volume of work over the past year, the team still find time to reflect on the highlights.

“It was important to support everyone through such a difficult time including each other. The teamwork in general was a highlight as well as working with all the clinicians and managers,” Kate said.

“As lockdown was coming to an end our team member, Greta Van Kerkwijk, welcomed a baby girl.  Celebrating special milestones like these were so meaningful in 2020.”

Another benefit noted by the team was their increased exposure and awareness of the role they play at the hospital.

“People are aware of Infection Prevention and Control, but even more so you notice it in a time like COVID-19.  Colleagues approached us in the hallway, in the lifts, checking in to make sure we were okay. They know who we are as a team and we’re able to be more present and visible to the hospital,” Kareena said.

“We’ve worked extraordinarily well together despite the challenges of the last year. Everyone contributed to making our hospital and the community a safer place. We have advocates in all different areas for infection prevention,” Kate said.

The team prevent infections through surveillance and education programs within the RCH, as well as producing resources to support the wider community, including videos with Jazz the puppet.

“We always aim to improve compliance to hand hygiene and personal protective equipment – and with the pandemic, healthcare workers and the community have really embraced these important interventions. Awareness has definitely increased and we want to see that continue,” Jane said.

Looking forward, the team will continue to focus on COVID-19 work, while encouraging everyone to play their part in infection prevention.

“Infection control is everyone’s business – prevention is an everyday activity and it should be part of everyday life.”

When reflecting on the most rewarding part of their job, Kate, Jane and Kareena agree that it has been making it to this current point in time.

“We have accomplished so much as a team and hospital to make the hospital, community and state safer,” Kate said.

“We helped the state get out of lockdown, which was its own reward,” Jane added.

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