People of Renew Sinai  Barb Shea and Sarah Wells

Walking 12,000 steps around Mount Sinai is a regular work day for Barb Shea and Sarah Wells, the two Infection Control Practitioners dedicated to our redevelopment project. When they are not in meetings advising on the unique risks associated with hospital redevelopment, they spend their days in hard hats and construction boots monitoring more than 30 currently active construction sites.

To keep our environment safe, Sarah and Barb work with our contractors and advise on the precautions necessary to meet best practice standards. These include barriers separating construction zones from occupied hospital areas and monitoring air flow between the two areas to prevent construction dust from contaminating air patients breathe.

“Dust generated by construction and ventilation and water shutdowns could pose risks to the safety of our sickest patients if they are not controlled properly and that is why our role is important,” says Barb. “We leave no stone unturned when we investigate construction sites.”

Their work doesn’t stop there. Before brand new spaces are deemed fit for patient care, they also need to give them a passing grade. They double check many details, including verifying that the space above and below ceilings are clean, that sinks and hand sanitizers are in the right spot and that the space is set up in a way that enables infection control practices to be followed.

“The locations of sinks and hand sanitizers are not random,” explains Sarah. “We advise on the right placement to facilitate easy adoption of hand hygiene best practices into daily work routines.” This is why their role is essential in overall space design and preparing teams to move into brand new spaces.

“Most of our work is invisible to staff and patients, and that is by design,” says Barb. “This means we are effectively working behind the scenes with our construction partners to mitigate risks associated with construction activities.”

Barb started her health care career as a Medical Laboratory Technologist in Microbiology, and Sarah brings a background in public and environmental health. Both have been at Mount Sinai for about two years, and bring an infectious energy and in-depth knowledge of microorganisms related to this specialized area of Infection Control.

“Every single day and construction activity presents a new challenge for us,” says Sarah. “When the team is finding a solution, they look for our advice so we don’t inadvertently compromise patient safety, and this is when our role really comes to life.”

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