Vicki Brinsko, R.N., remembers when she first looked through the microscope in her microbiology course. "I fell in love with the whole world I was looking at through the lens."
Her passion turned into a career dedicated to infection control. Brinsko is a registered nurse who has worked at Vanderbilt University Medical Center
for 20 years, most of that in infection control.
But there's no way Brinsko could have foreseen the state and national impact she would have on the important issue. In 2003, she was selected for the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC), a federal committee associated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Faced with statistics such as 2 million cases of health-care-acquired infection of which an estimated one-third are preventable, HICPAC published a guideline of mandatory public reporting of health-care-acquired infections in 2005.
"The train was leaving the station, and we in Tennessee didn't want to be climbing on board. We wanted to be driving the train," said Brinsko.
Working with the Tennesseans for Improving Patient Safety (TIPS) group, Brinsko helped pull together a multidisciplinary team, incorporating large and small hospitals, insurance groups, consumers and other stakeholders spanning from Memphis to Bristol.
Then Brinsko and others headed to the state health department and Capitol Hill with the evidence supporting public reporting of infections. Brinsko was there each week of the Tennessee General Assembly's 2006 legislative session to testify in front of committees or to meet with various legislators.
When State Sen. David Fowler's bill gained momentum, she helped flesh out portions of the legislation, which became law. As a result, hospitals with 25 or more inpatients and outpatients are required to report central line bloodstream infections and surgical site infections via the CDC's National Nosocomial Infection Surveillance/ National Healthcare Safety Network.
While she's helped accomplish so much, she's really just getting started as she prepares her approach for the 2007 legislative session. "I want consumers to be informed and educated about infection control," said Brinsko. "It's about making sure all citizens of Tennessee have excellent health care."
- Kathy Rivers