Public health student develops infection control program for Liberian hospital

By Sally Crocker

Phipps Web
 
A UNT Health Science Center public health student has developed a sustainable program to control infection and manage infectious waste for Phebe Hospital in Liberia, where one of that country’s first known cases of Ebola was diagnosed in 2014.

DrPH candidate Laura Phipps, MPH, CPH, RS, who graduates in May from the UNTHSC School of Public Health, traveled to Liberia as part of her major doctoral project.

That project included researching international guidelines for waste management systems in low-resource settings, developing written policies and procedures, and designing training programs for Phebe staff on appropriate waste management and infection control practices.

Phipps presented the first trainings on site for housekeeping and nursing staff, then developed a health care waste management plan and annotated training presentations for the hospital to continue the program on its own, updating as needed and ensuring that all new staff are oriented to the program as they are hired.

“When the Ebola outbreak brought international attention to Liberia and the Liberian health care system, agencies like the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent teams to Phebe Hospital to establish response systems that are still in place today,” she said. “But over time, with staff changes and resources that are severely stretched, adherence to the systems decreased.”

Phebe is one of Liberia’s oldest medical centers, Phipps said.

“Approximately 100-150 outpatients are seen each weekday, with 75 to 100 patients typically treated each day in the emergency room,” she added. “The Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing compound is the site of not only the County Health Team, but also additional government and private health agencies and non-governmental organizations, making Phebe a vital part of Liberia’s health care delivery system, and making it crucial for the hospital to consistently follow a standardized protocol for infection control and safe waste management.”

Since Phebe Hospital has no human resources department, Phipps’ plan also addresses new employee training, continuing education processes and emergency event response.

“Liberia is now calling for hospitals to have standardized policies in writing for waste management, so it’s possible that the Phebe plan could be used as a template for other health care facilities in the region,” Phipps said.

Phipps’ interest in global public health sparked an earlier trip to Haiti, where she gained prior experience working with mobile clinic services in remote, underserved villages and provided maternal health trainings, in addition to conducting a community needs assessment to help inform future health care aid and initiatives for these populations.

“My experiences in Haiti helped me prepare for Liberia and really opened my eyes to the health and social issues in developing countries,” Phipps said. “What struck me as most significant was the resilience of both countries. They are among the poorest areas of the world, yet the people are remarkable in their ability to stay strong through difficulty and challenge.

“The value of going overseas and working in these countries is about being able to help, and it is life changing in the deeper understanding and concern that you gain by connecting with these people, seeing their lives and learning what they face in the context of health and survival.”

Recent News

Ram flyer
  • Community
|Nov 23, 2022

Free pop-up medical, vision and dental clinic is just a week away

The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth and Remote Area Medical – RAM® — a nonprofit provider of pop-up clinics that delivers free quality dental, vision and medical care to those in need — are bringing the free health care clinic to Dallas on Dec. 3 and 4. After th...
Mathis, Borjas, Luna Smith Hsc Teaching Chair
  • Community
|Nov 18, 2022

HSC partners with Fort Worth ISD to honor outstanding science teacher 

The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth is committed to supporting science and health education for students at all levels of their academic journeys.  Since last year, HSC has sponsored Fort Worth Independent School District’s Chair for Teaching Excellence in Seconda...
Dr. Sid O'Bryant
  • Research
|Nov 14, 2022

Key study results from HSC’s Institute for Translational Research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease

Findings from a recent study by the team at the Institute for Translational Research led by Dr. Sid O’Bryant at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth have been published by the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. The article, “Characterization of Mild Cognitive Impairme...
John Mulstad
  • Our People
|Nov 11, 2022

Recognizing veterans in HSC’s School of Health Professions

Today, and every day, we are proud to recognize the faculty, staff and students of the School of Health Professions who have answered the selfless call to serve as health care providers and in their country's military. We commend and celebrate the patriotism, sacrifices and selfless service of al...