For almost seven years, Jennifer Regier was the only infection prevention and control (IP&C) nurse in Thompson, Manitoba, working as a team of one from Nov. 2013 to May 2020.

“Serving Thompson and all the catchment areas is huge. It really was a big undertaking for her to come into this role with no hands-on mentorship, and it was a huge, huge geographical area to serve on her own,” said Debbie Williamson, IP&C Coordinator, and Regier’s supervisor for the past eight years.

Under normal circumstances, Regier’s role is heavy on prevention – providing ongoing workforce education while also supporting staff through challenges at Thompson General Hospital and nearby northern communities like Lynn Lake, Gillam, Leaf Rapids and the Bayline communities.

But much of her day-to-day responsibilities have changed or intensified since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020.

“Education is a daily responsibility – now more than ever – keeping up to date with changing operating procedures and supporting our care teams with the latest best practice guidelines as we adapt to evolving pressures of this virus,” said Regier. “Another significant part of my role is ensuring providers are wearing their personal protective equipment (PPE) properly, or bringing in additional measures during an outbreak.”

Other responsibilities include auditing hand hygiene and personal PPE practices, developing policies and procedures, and doing surveillance for infections to detect potential outbreaks before they happen, and managing them if they do.

“I’ve supported providers and sites through a number of COVID outbreaks over the past two years. My role is not to be critical of anyone’s actions but to help providers when they run into issues or make a mistake. My goal has always been – before the pandemic and will continue to be after – to build a safe environment for staff to feel comfortable reaching out to me about a problem so that we can work through the issue together as soon as possible.” 

Regier began her career in health as a nurse working in Winnipeg and, following an injury to her wrist, decided to make a change in her role which ultimately lead to a change in geography as well. 

“I really enjoy living in the north. I love spending time outdoors and being a part of the community,” said Regier. “I also love being able to work to my full scope of practice to a much larger degree here than you would in an urban location where some people specialize in one area.”

Williamson remarked on Regier’s passion for infection control, her dedication to making sure their region’s patients and staff are up to date with new studies and information, and relevant IP&C knowledge.

“She’s brilliant. Her mind is like a computer sometimes with the vast amount of information that’s stored in there – it’s so impressive,” said Williamson. “Through all the years that I’ve known her and worked with her, she’s really built up her skill set and her knowledge bank, so she’s very sought after for information and clarification amongst other IP&C professionals across Manitoba.”

In true IP&C fashion, Regier was eager to share her passion for keeping IP&C best practices top of mind for health care providers.

“Infection control is everyone’s job, so make sure you’re cleaning your hands, keeping your vaccines up to date, and practicing proper donning and doffing procedure every day, every single time,” said Regier. “Building those habits will save you when you get busy or if there is an emergency.”

IP&C professionals like Regier regularly contribute to working groups that provide tools and dictate changes to health-care facilities across Manitoba. Some of the groups Regier is proud to have been a part of include the PPE Education Working Group that developed a number of the tools on the Shared Health website, the Seasonal Respiratory Virus Working Group that produced seasonal respiratory virus planning and response guidelines, and the Maples Working Group that developed infection control guidelines in long-term care settings after the Maples Personal Care Home investigation.

Opportunities in IP&C exist at health facilities across Manitoba. If you are a nurse and are passionate about contributing to health care education and safety, consider exploring opportunities in IP&C by visiting sharedhealthmb.ca/careers/.   

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