Therese Mirisola, RN, MSN, CIC

Location: Edmonds, WA

Title: Director Infection Prevention

Company/Organization: Seattle Children's

First Certified: June 2018

When I think about COVID 19, I realize how thankful I am for an Emergency Management team that had all of us to the table starting to talk about COVID before it became an issue in our state and long before it was called a pandemic. This forethought and our previous work in becoming an Ebola treatment center served us well as the first patient diagnosed in the US occurred in our area.

The biggest challenge for our organization was the constant change (sometimes more than once a day) in CDC and public health guidance. Staying on top of these changes, being able pivot on a dime and support teams all at the same time was a true struggle both physically and emotionally.

I think of our COVID journey and, in December 2019, I had lost yet another member of my IP team and was actively hiring in to 3 IP roles and would then also have to bring on 3 others IP’s as well as a program manager for our special pathogens program. The challenge of leading an organization through this unprecedented time, mentor and nurture new staff, find a way to take care of myself and to feel knowledgeable and expert in all aspects of this work was overwhelming.

So how did we do it? Well, first I would say that I hired well! The new IP’s were resilient and flexible, independent learners and willing to jump in and just do the work. We found ways to divide and conquer work, helped each other prioritize and just supported each other daily. I continue to be in awe of the team we have built over the past year! 

Second, I have to say that our use of the HICPAC structure was a saving grace.  We had this structure in place very early on (January 2020). This allowed our organization to operationalize the work and frequent changes, have a clear escalation pathway and resolution path for barriers, issues or concerns that arose multiple times a day every day and be able to support our staff, out patients and families and our community as our policies and processes were not without significant angst and frustration.

For me, the partnership with my APIC colleagues locally, my Children’s Hospital Association IP directors and my local peer organizations was the thing that continues to get me through the day to day and truly fills my cup. The resilience that it takes to continue this level of work, day in and day out, for so long has been the biggest learning for me. What we all do is important, hard, emotional and so critical to our organizations and our communities. I am so thankful to be a part of it!