Hi Dr. Buffy, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory. While working on a national pilot study, I learned that 380,000 deaths occur annually in the long-term care industry due to infection. Called to action, I knew that these facilities needed help in fighting these infections in their facilities. These numbers were unacceptable before the pandemic struck, and COVID-19 exponentially exacerbated the situation. These facilities were given new guidelines and protocols to follow, with no realistic way of implementing them. I founded my infection prevention and control consulting business to support facilities in this arena, and grew slowly at first. I began to become known for my in-person, hands-on approach, which differed from the current system of online information to be consumed. I saw each facility was different and faced a different set of challenges, requiring the personalized approach and training. Long-term care facilities were reserved to being weary of outsiders, but they soon began to see me as an advocate who would support them without question, solve problems without looking for blame, and be available when they needed me. I went above and beyond for my facilities, without hesitancy.
When the pandemic struck and long-term care facilities were the epicenter of COVID deaths, I was in high demand. While government and surveyors were being punitive, I was supporting the industry across the country, visiting over 120 facilities in ten months. I was spending hours on the phone locating personal protective equipment for nursing homes that were dangerously short on supply. I spent every waking moment protecting a vulnerable population and supporting those who were on the frontlines, often on the frontlines myself. This is still the case. The hundreds of healthcare workers I support are my family, and they know this. On Easter Sunday, a young infection preventionist called me with questions and needed support. I didn’t hesitate to spend as much time as it took to answer all of her questions and guide her through her issue.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way? Some of the struggles along the way – While the infection rates were incredibly high, even before the pandemic, I had a difficult time “breaking in”. While all the frontline healthcare workers were understaffed and undertrained, they knew they needed the help. The difficulty lied in convincing the decision makers to bring in an outsider. As an analogy, we saw this as instead of putting in fire prevention protocols such as sprinkler systems, many facilities would rather deal with the damage done by the fire.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about IPCWell? The difference IPCWell offers is the personalized touch. I will be in-person, identifying gaps and training healthcare workers one on one, on the spot, identifying the specific challenges a certain facility may face. I know the challenges they face, so am able to tailor my support to reflect the individual facility instead of throwing generalized information at them. My clients describe me as warm and supportive, and they soon realize they have an advocate, someone who cares deeply about the safety of their healthcare workers and residents, and they see my vast experience and knowledge. Facilities know immediately when working with me that I am there to help and will do anything to support them.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give credit to? Dr. Omayra Ortega was an instrumental mentor. From 2010-2013, I participated in her Mathematical Epidemiological Research Group for three years where she fostered an atmosphere of learning and inquisitiveness on how infectious diseases transmit within populations. She supported me in the development of a mathematical model that described how the human papillomavirus transmits in a population among men and woman. She was instrumental in encouraging me to go the distance with my education and not stop until I completed my doctoral degree. She always encouraged me to apply for scholarships and speaking engagements at conferences to present my research which has to this day given me the confidence to never shy away and to always go the distance with everything I do.
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