Healthcare associated infections (HAIs) are infections which development is favoured by a hospital environment, such as one acquired by a patient during a hospital stay. They are one of the most frequent adverse events in healthcare and lead to serious threats to patient safety and care efficiency. Even though HAIs cause lots of problems in Europe, the incidence of HAIs is even higher in developing countries, such as in many Asian countries. The increasing prevalence of HAIs in Asia increases the health care costs and the morbidity and mortality of patients.
There are many reasons for the poor situation of HAI prevention in Asia e.g., the awareness and the knowledge about the HAI prevention of the health care workers is not always adequate. At the same time, the lack of support resources, such as education and medical equipment, can lead to a high percentage of HAIs. For example, in Vietnamese hospitals poor resources and awareness with an overload of patients are high risks for causing infections. It is also suggested that there is not enough know-how to tackle against for the antimicrobial resistance caused by using antibiotics without firm evidence. Additionally, the prevalence statistics of infections is not sufficiently documented to raise awareness of HAI´s.
The provision of quality education is essential for the development of the appropriate knowledge and skills of healthcare workers. It is suggested that the best way to improve e.g nurses’ infection prevention and control (IPC) competency, is to educate nursing students throughout the undergraduate program in practicing infection prevention and control. Starting from the beginning of the studies it can be assumed that nurses are more competent providing safe and good healthcare and are also motivated to develop their IPC skills through their careers.
The prevention of HAIs is one the most important subjects in healthcare education and is based on a constantly evolving knowledge base, updated international guidelines, and national legislation. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the urgent need for information on such topics as how to quickly identify infected people, guide their treatment, and isolate the infected or exposed.
Besides the content of infection prevention and control there is also a need for more innovative learning methods so that infection prevention and control meet the new challenges. In most countries, nursing schools and universities closed on spring 2020 and more than 1.5 million students shifted into distance learning. In this new situation, it was discovered that all teaching materials and methods did not cover the needs of distance learning purposes, and thus became a great concern how to ensure that healthcare students reach the academic requirements.
In addition, attitudes affect the application of HAI prevention and control. Instead of just disseminating information, there is also a need for fostering students´ personal motivation and ability to apply the guidelines in practice, as well as a need for collecting information on the obstacles on complying with the guidelines.
Erasmus project helping Asian countries to develop infection prevention and control competency
Even though the governments of Asian countries indicate that it is necessary to promote health, the infection prevention and control education currently differs between universities and countries. Therefore, it is an urgent need to support the Asian Higher Education Institutions in providing systematic and up-dated education of infection prevention and control.
The integration of an international co-operation and development into teaching promotes the introduction of new knowledge and increases the quality and effectiveness of education. The common development of infection control became particularly topical worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic, as skilled and properly protected personnel are important in order to increase health performance.
An Erasmus+ project Capacitating Asia’s Nursing Students on Innovative and Sustainable Prevention and Control of Healthcare-associated Infections (PrevInf) aims to improve nursing students’ competency related to HAI prevention and control and foster good quality nursing skills in Asian Higher Education Institutions. The project started at the beginning of the year 2021 and Nursing School of Coimbra, from Portugal and Savonia University of Applied Sciencies are leading it.
The PrevInf project consortium objective is to develop the two Vietnamese universities, Nam Dinh University of Nursing and Hai Duong Medical Technical University, and two Cambodian universities, International University and Bolyno Institute, current nursing curriculums to strengthen HAI prevention and control education. This involves the evaluation and updating of their learning objectives, curriculum contents and pedagogical methods. Additionally, it includes innovation of new teaching and learning methods and their application into the local contexts.
New methods in HAI prevention and control education
Structured and up-to-date education in HAI prevention and control is recognized as an important element of healthcare professionals’ on-going competency development. Such educational initiatives should be included in various methods in the nursing curriculum as well as in the education of other professionals. It is also important to make HAI prevention and control education inspiring and interesting core component of professional education.
Creation and development of innovative pedagogical methods to address HAI prevention and control could improve the quality of the current nursing curricula across the world in provision of safe and quality care. PrevInf project will help nursing staff and students in Asian countries to develop competency in HAI prevention and control by stimulating their critical thinking, decision-making, and providing them with the necessary skills to plan, implement, and evaluate nursing care. During the project a PrevInf Model will be developed in HAI prevention and control to be used for nursing education, which will contain the organizational, educational, and professional elements for the development of students’ competency.
In addition to the clinical recommendations of the best practices in this field, the Model will be composed of a pedagogical dimension to stimulate nursing students’ development of their competency in HAI prevention and control.
The model will comprise e.g., of a didactically designed E-book to foster students’ online independent learning. It will also include simulation pedagogy to strengthen the practical competence. Savonia team is responsible for the guidance of the Asian partners in designing the eBook and developing simulation pedagogy, as Savonia has previous experience in developing them. Savonia has advanced level know-how about simulation pedagogy, has participated in other international and national simulation projects and simulation is also one of the Savonia´s strategic areas.
The project has only just begun, but it is already clear the collaborative process will be very beneficial to all the partners as we are continuously learning from each other. Even now, it’s great to see how effortless it is for healthcare professionals to collaborate, even from different time zones and cultures, because most basic realities in healthcare are similar all around the world. Multidisiplinary team and cooperation will furthermore widen the development of prevention of HAI’s in health care settings.