How does it feel to be ‘on the other side’?

Mrs Joanna Harris1

1Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, Warrawong, Australia


This presentation is a reflection on my experience of being a patient having an elective surgical procedure within a public hospital in NSW, Australia. I consider my observations on some important components of an effective infection prevention and control programme. I also reflect on what may be a previously under-acknowledged factor in the transmission of pathogens in hospitals; the patients themselves.


This is an account of my observations whilst a patient in a public hospital in NSW, from the perspective of an experienced infection prevention and control nurse.


Starting from the pre-operative assessment clinic, and travelling through my perioperative experience to discharge home on day 3, I used my theoretical lens to observe staff in their carriage of infection prevention and control practices such as hand hygiene, equipment cleaning and management of the environment in real life.


As an infection prevention and control practitioner, how often do we really have a chance to see what our consumers see and experience while they are in our care?

This account will facilitate a greater understanding of the way our policies are enacted in real life, and also provoke some conversations about the role that patients themselves may play in the transmission of potential pathogens within our clinical settings. From this we may be able to develop effective communication strategies for our consumers around reducing their risk of healthcare associated infection.


Joanna worked as a nurse, midwife and health visitor in the UK, and specialised in infection prevention and control before moving to NSW in 2007.

She manages a team of experienced and inspirational infection prevention and control nurses, and is also undertaking PhD research into the ethics of Contact Precautions. Joanna has published articles on a wide range of topics including headlice, MRSA epidemiology, listeriosis, the barriers and enablers associated with the role of the hand hygiene auditor in Australia, and the ethics of Contact Precautions in the management of endemic multi-resistant organisms.

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