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Jennifer Jones, 2023 McKnight Prize for Healthcare Outbreak Heroes Recipient

Posted: October 16, 2023


Jennifer Jones

Jennifer Jones

Jennifer Jones, Senior Infection Preventionist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, part of Corewell Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan is the recipient of the 2023 McKnight Prize for Healthcare Outbreak Heroes award for her outstanding response to a Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) outbreak in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

The Evelyn and Thomas McKnight Family Fund for Patient Safety and the CDC Foundation created the McKnight Healthcare Outbreak Heroes Prize to encourage and reward those who protect patients from harm related to healthcare outbreaks. We’re happy to introduce Jennifer Jones as the 2023 recipient of this prestigious award!

In the Spring of 2022, the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital’s Infection Prevention team, led by Jennifer, Senior Infection Preventionist, was monitoring hospital-acquired MRSA cases in their Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The team identified an outbreak after observing a sudden uptick in MRSA bacteremia cases in a short period of time, prompting an investigation. The infection prevention team utilized their Outbreak Investigation Policy, referenced CDC & APIC resources, and implemented mitigation strategies. Examples of these strategies included mandatory Call-to-Action sessions for all team members who enter the NICU, weekly MRSA screening of all admitted NICU babies, development of a decolonization protocol, and installation of additional hand sanitizer dispensers. Jennifer exemplified outstanding leadership, initiative, and personal commitment as part of a successful effort to protect newborns throughout this outbreak response. CORHA spoke with her about her lessons learned and keys to success.

Jennifer recognized that during this outbreak, good communication was essential for all stakeholders: parents, staff, leadership, the health department, and CDC. She organized weekly meetings to provide updates during the investigation that could be shared among their teams. Jennifer emphasized that navigating these conversations with partners during an HAI/AR outbreak response is always tough; however, when you provide data to support your rationale and response, it makes the conversations easier.

A success Jennifer shares is that her staff felt comfortable going to leadership and the infection prevention team with suggestions. For example, during their Call-to-Action sessions, staff felt empowered to notify the infection prevention team that gloves in all sizes were not easily accessible to provide care. Jennifer’s team went onsite with facility and bedside team members to see where they could install a place to house small, medium, and large gloves for staff use. This is just one example of open communication from over 40 suggestions that were provided to Jennifer’s team.

Sharing key messages with everyone who might enter the NICU space was a challenging and essential part of the outbreak response. Jennifer’s team rounded in the NICU frequently to conduct knowledge surveys (and, of course, hand out candy). This helped them evaluate whether their messaging was reaching the care team and provide real-time observations and feedback. The following is a key insight Jennifer gained while leading the outbreak response:

“Get out there and observe what is truly happening and partner with the care team so it doesn’t seem punitive. Walk alongside them in all phases of an outbreak scenario so it remains a partnership between the care team and infection prevention team.”

We applaud Jennifer for her leadership, dedication and initiative to ensure a well-coordinated and successful outbreak response.

To view resources to help your team on patient notification, check out CORHA’s Patient Notification page which includes our Framework for Healthcare-Associated Infection Outbreak Notification. There, you’ll find advice for timely and transparent communication when faced with your next outbreak response.

Click here to read more featured stories as part of the Spotlight Series that highlight the successes and challenges experienced on the local, state, and national levels when responding to and managing HAI/AR outbreaks across the healthcare continuum.