Taking infection control to the dogs

News / General

Infection Control Practitioner digs into canine scent detection and more to help keep patients safe

Activist. Advocate. Innovator. Meghan Engbretson fits all three categories but the advocate role best fits the Infection Control Practitioner whose activities speak loudly for patients and safe health care.

With COVID-19 setting a hectic pace for the infection control team at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC), Engbretson has played a big role in developing an electronic pandemic prevalence tool that let clinicians pinpoint high-risk patients; helped to create an electronic flagging system to track a patient’s infection status from doorway to discharge; supported a tool to handle surge capacity planning at KHSC; and stickhandled a community collection of about 4,000 cloth masks for outpatients at KHSC.

She keeps a sharp eye on whatever will improve patient safety, from the latest evidence-based research to new technologies to proven infection control practices in other organizations that could be migrated to KHSC.

Staying current also translates into recruiting a new canine colleague. Engbretson is now training her springer spaniel Percy to find the scent of C. difficile bacteria with the aim of introducing canine scent detection at KHSC. Last fall, she was awarded a $1000 Awesome Kingston grant to support this new way to sniff out a superbug like C.difficile, which can survive on surfaces for months.

While she and Percy train offsite, the goal is to advance his training to KHSC's Kingston General Hospital site. As someone who routinely does surveillance for C.difficile, Engbretson is keen to not just add Percy to KHSC’s infection prevention toolkit but also to put KHSC on the map: currently, there are only three C.difficile detection dogs in Canada.

Asked how she fits so much infection control activity into her day, she admits that she likes staying busy. “I’m curious,” she says. “I love learning and networking so patients and the staff caring for them have the benefit of the best infection control practices out there.”