Education of physicians-in-training can decrease the risk for vascular catheter infection

Ann Intern Med. 2000 Apr 18;132(8):641-8. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-132-8-200004180-00007.


Background: Procedure instruction for physicians-in-training is usually nonstandardized. The authors observed that during insertion of central venous catheters (CVCs), few physicians used full-size sterile drapes (an intervention proven to reduce the risk for CVC-related infection).

Objective: To improve standardization of infection control practices and techniques during invasive procedures.

Design: Nonrandomized pre-post observational trial.

Setting: Six intensive care units and one step-down unit at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Participants: Third-year medical students and physicians completing their first postgraduate year.

Intervention: A 1-day course on infection control practices and procedures given in June 1996 and June 1997.

Measurements: Surveys assessing physician attitudes toward use of sterile techniques during insertion of CVCs were administered during the baseline year and just before, immediately after, and 6 months after the first course. Preintervention and postintervention use of full-size sterile drapes was measured, and surveillance for vascular catheter-related infection was performed.

Results: The perceived need for full-size sterile drapes was 22% in the year before the course and 73% 6 months after the course (P < 0.001). The perceived need for small sterile towels at the insertion site decreased reciprocally (P < 0.001). Documented use of full-size sterile drapes increased from 44% to 65% (P < 0.001). The rate of catheter-related infection decreased from 4.51 infections per 1000 patient-days before the first course to 2.92 infections per 1000 patient-days 18 months after the first course (average decrease, 3.23 infections per 1000 patient-days; P < 0.01). The estimated cost savings of this 28% decrease was at least $63000 and may have exceeded $800000.

Conclusions: Standardization of infection control practices through a course is a cost-effective way to decrease related adverse outcomes. If these findings can be reproduced, this approach may serve as a model for physicians-in-training.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Bacteremia / prevention & control*
  • Catheterization, Central Venous / adverse effects*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Education, Medical, Continuing / methods*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / methods*
  • Equipment Contamination
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / economics
  • Infection Control / methods*
  • Infection Control / standards
  • Needlestick Injuries / etiology