The New Jersey Hospital Association is launching a year-long series of infection prevention training to help all levels of healthcare adopt a layered, multi-point approach to infection prevention.

Project Firstline is a nationwide initiative led by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to engage healthcare workers in infection prevention training across the country, said NJHA spokeswoman Kerry McKean Kelly.

NJHA was selected by the state Department of Health to provide Project Firstline training in the Garden State to staff in hospitals, nursing homes, and a variety of other health care settings.

The funding comes to New Jersey through the CDC, which aims to reach 6 million healthcare workers nationwide.

The project includes a year-long series of programs, webinars, podcasts, video-on-demand, and other forms of education. McKean Kelly said it not only covers the core principles of infection prevention.

But it also shares new knowledge and emphasizes a sharing of information across colleagues and health care settings. "It's an all share, all learn approach," she said.

There are eight pieces of training scheduled for the rest of the year with more available in 2022. McKean Kelly said the topics include the science of viruses, how they develop, spread, and mutate, as well as a deeper dive into specific topics like personal protective equipment.

During COVID-19, it was made known how important PPE was, so this training will go deeper into why the fit of PPE is so critical. Even the correct ways to put it on and take it off to minimize the spread of infection will be taught, said McKean Kelly said.

The training not only focuses on COVID-19, but other threats like Candida Auris, that can easily spread in healthcare settings among vulnerable people.

She said infection prevention has always been a critical part of all health care facilities' plans and processes. "But what COVID did was demonstrate how vulnerable we still can be when the world faces a brand new virus," said McKean Kelly.

New Jersey was one of the very first COVID hotspots in the nation, she added. There was no playbook at that time for taking care of patients with this novel virus. New Jersey's healthcare teams were caring for COVID patients, while everyone, including public health experts, was still learning about this virus.

McKean Kelly said Project Firstline will constantly be reinforcing the core principles of infection prevention as well as presenting new knowledge that the COVID experience honed in on as far as the importance of keeping current with the knowledge.

The training is not mandatory for healthcare workers but it is available to all of them across all healthcare settings. It's free and they can earn continuing education credits for their participation.

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