Women’s History Month: Celebrating Alicia Couraud, BSN, Infection Control
Thank you to Alicia Couraud for helping us through an often dark and difficult year. As Alicia recall, "COVID changed so many things for most people. There was an immediate need to keep patients and staff safe from this new virus, and new policies dramatically changed how most employees go about their daily routine." With Alicia’s leadership, we emerge ready to continue to serve.
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Communications: Tell us about your work and what was changed by COVID?
Alicia Couraud, BSN: As the Infection Control Nurse, my role is to plan, organize, implement, evaluate and direct the Infection Control Program. I serve as a resource to all hospital staff on all issues related to infection control and employee health. I administer and maintain the records for all workforce TB screening and testing and all workforce and inpatient flu vaccination. I am a member of the Antimicrobial Stewardship committee. I make rounds throughout the patient units to discuss infection control concerns. I am in charge of the Hand Hygiene program and conduct and maintain hand hygiene monitoring. I am a member of several committees where infection control issues are presented and discussed. In addition, I had worked as an educator. I taught BLS, First Aid, phlebotomy and Critical Skills and presented infection control at bimonthly new employee orientation and annually for all staff. With the COVID-19 pandemic, my focus immediately became keeping staff and patients free from COVID infection. The teachings of BLS, First Aid, phlebotomy and Critical Skills were delegated to other staff. There was a freeze on new employee hiring so the bimonthly orientations were no longer live presentations in the auditorium and a Zoom recording was made. The live annual infection control updates for employees were also changed to Zoom recordings.
COVID changed so many things for most people; there was an immediate need to keep patients and staff safe from this new virus. As an Infection Control nurse, this was a sudden change of focus. I participated in the formation of the COVID Task Force which wrote and implemented new policies which dramatically changed how most employees go about their daily routine.
Communications: What was hardest for you during the height of the pandemic, and are there pandemic related issues that you and those you supervise continue to face?
AC: I found the most challenging thing I needed to do was to make rounds throughout the buildings and educate staff to the need of adhering to the new policies. This included the necessity of wearing a surgical face mask, in wearing it properly and realizing if one’s nose or mouth was exposed, this made you vulnerable to acquiring COVID. This also meant that staff were often reminded that they could not eat and drink proximate to colleagues as in the past. I continue to stress the importance of how we are all responsible in keeping each other safe. This now includes encouraging staff to get vaccinated.
Communications: What led you to healthcare? To nursing and Infection Control specifically?
AC: At a young age, I realized that I wanted to be involved in a profession that had a direct effect on the wellbeing of people. I started my nursing career in the late 80s, in Greenwich Village, during the AIDS epidemic. I found work to be rewarding when helping individuals most in need. I have worked on campus, for NYP, CU and PI since 1996 and have held several different psychiatric nursing positions but I moved into Infection Control quite recently. There was a need and I believed I would be able to do a good job. Shortly after, the pandemic started.
Communications: Are there women who were or are role models for you? Can you give us an example?
AC: Working under Dr. Evelyn Attia, Director of Clinical Services at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, during this pandemic gave me the opportunity to work with an intelligent, strong woman, who can organize and lead, maintain values and demonstrate compassion. Without her direction and support, I would not have been able to accomplish as much as I did.
Communications: Are there special skills women bring to leadership? Please share?
AC: I believe women are more inclined to use their emotional intelligence to better assess and manage situations.
Communications: Are there still challenges unique to women in the workplace, as leaders, and as partners and parents?
AC: Challenges continue for women to evolve in a world which is male dominated and in which often women are assigned secondary roles. Many women leaders continue to take on traditional domestic roles at home while male leaders are more likely to not share domestic routines. Perceptions about who does certain household tasks differ sharply by gender.