Online courses help staff develop new skills
Online courses are helping staff to
develop the skills they need to tackle hospitalacquired infections, such
as MRSA and C.difficile, and this expertise could also prove vital in a
pandemic, according to a study published in the latest issue of the
UK-based Journal of Advanced Nursing.
Nursing and healthcare staff who took part in a specially developed
online infection control course said that it had improved their
infection control procedures and the advice they gave to patients,
visitors and other staff. A number of them had also recommended changes
to their department or hospital, which had been adopted.
When they were surveyed before the course, participants gave their
competency in this area an average score of 64%. This rose by nearly a
fifth to just over 77% after they had completed the course.
Most of those surveyed – 87% – said that they had found the course
useful and relevant to their workplace and had already changed their
behaviour as a result.
When staff suggested changes or improvements based on what they had
learnt 76% said their organisation was fairly supportive. Staff said
that they had the flexibility to allow new infection control measures to
And 85% felt that the online course would be seen as a positive way to
support infection control procedures.
Other feedback suggested that the format of the course, which included
videos and interactive quizzes, enhanced the learning experience.
Sixty-seven staff from three large teaching hospitals and a small
community hospital in Canada completed questionnaires before and after
the course, which covered three key areas: hand hygiene, routine
practices and the chain of transmission.
Just under a half of them were registered nurses and the remainder
included pharmacists, physiotherapists, nurse educators and nursing
A third had more than 20 years’ healthcare experience and a further
third had less than five years’ experience. Just under half (49%) had
used online learning before and the majority (97%) had intermediate or
advanced computer skills.
“All the participants said that the course was extremely helpful and
that they would recommend online learning as a way of improving
infection control skills,” says Professor Lynda Atack from the School of
Health Studies at Centennial College in Ontario, Canada.
The healthcare professionals who took part in the course reported a
number of ways in which their behaviour had changed or they had sought
to influence the procedures adopted in their department. These include:
● Paying more attention to the need for personal hand hygiene
● Improving the use of personal protective clothing and ensuring
that patients and visitors do the same
● Increasing glove use and wearing eye protection more frequently
● Asking for better-equipped isolation carts to be provided, together
with hand sanitisers in non-clinical areas of the hospital
● Re-examining waste disposal processes and more appropriate glove use
in the labs
The authors argue that infection control is vital amid growing
international concerns about the rising rate of hospital-acquired
infections such as MRSA and C.difficile. These frequently result in ill
health or death and put major pressure on healthcare costs.
“International travel and bacterial resistance are also global health
issues and these draw attention to the need for improved infection
control,” says Professor Atack.
“The Canadian organisations that managed the SARS outbreak have also
raised major concerns about the limited availability of infection
control experts and courses to train or retrain healthcare staff in
basic infection control procedures.
“There is global consensus about this gap and the need for greater
emphasis on infection control in healthcare settings.” It was those
concerns that led researchers to develop, and test, the online course in
infection control procedures.
“The results of our study show that online learning can be an effective
way to enhance knowledge and skills in infection control procedures,”
concludes Professor Atack, who carried out the study with Dr Robert
Luke, Director of the Office of Applied Research at George Brown
“However, we are keen to point out that the online course was never
intended to replace hands-on practice and that these courses will be
most effective when they are used to complement existing workplace
Professor Atack also stresses that adopting online learning for staff is
more complex than simply putting courses on the Internet.
“It is equally important to ensure that organisations provide healthcare
professionals with the support they need after the course, to ensure
that they can improve their infection control procedures. They should
also be encouraged to suggest and influence changes in their working
● “Impact of an online course on infection control and prevention
competencies”. Atack et al. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 63.2, 175-180.
of upload: 29th September 2008