Dr Weber on IP2021 and the Swiss Cheese Model: Are there holes in our knowledge?


11th November 2021

Events and Exhibitions

GAMA expert, Dr Phillip Norville, recently caught up with IPS Scientific Programme Committee member, Karen Wares, and IP2021 speaker, Dr David Weber, to hear their highlights; including Dr Weber’s session on the ‘Swiss Cheese Model’ within ‘Strategies to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Transmission to Healthcare Personnel’.

When it comes to IPS conferences, we all expect to be welcomed into a room full of Infection Prevention & Control enthusiasts. As someone who lives and breathes IPC, I was excited to see everyone in person again at IP2021. One face I was excited to see was Dr David Weber’s. With over 470 peer-reviewed papers and a list of credentials almost as long, Dr Weber is at the forefront of IPC. Karen and I caught up with him to chat about his IP2021 experience…

IP2021: our top 3 take home messages

The IPC world is populated by a bunch of people with the same common thought: together we can prevent infections and save lives. The great thing about IP2021, and my chat with Karen and Dr Weber, was that it gave us all a chance to reflect and figure out what we’ve learnt in the past year. For IP2021 this fell under one main theme: what lessons has COVID-19 taught us?

  • Future planning is essential. Especially if we’re going to face another pandemic in the next however many years. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we need clear communication, education, and sufficient stock of infection prevention necessities (hand hygiene, surface decontamination and PPE products especially).
  • Innovation is important. Dr Weber pointed out that newer technologies, ‘such as Rediroom’ and air filtration systems, aren’t ‘novelties’ but necessities in the fight against infection. Sitting alongside surface disinfection and hand hygiene as core pillars of infection prevention.
  • We’ve got to look after ourselves as well as others. Our hospitals have seen colossal numbers of patients come through their doors during the pandemic. It would be false to say healthcare workers are unaffected. To continue supporting patients through this pandemic, and the next, we need to support each other. IP2021 gave us an opportunity to reconnect, share learnings and do just that.

Dr Weber at IP2021: the Swiss Cheese Model

As well as reflecting on themes, Dr Weber recapped his IP2021 session. Using the curiously named ‘Swiss Cheese Model’ to explain how we can protect ourselves from SARS-CoV-2 and other infectious diseases…

This model can be applied to everyday activities that involve risk. Imagine you’re in the pub – Dr Weber’s words, not mine! You’re eating a burger – with no mask, no vaccine, unwashed hands, from a can’t-be-sure-it’s-seen-a-dishwasher looking plate. There’s nothing between you and the risk. As cheese layers are added (no, not to the burger), there’s less risk. Infection could only happen if all the holes in the cheese lined up, which is unlikely. Applying this to healthcare personnel, we can assume that: if we add more layers of protection, there is less chance of acquiring an infection. We add protection with hand hygiene, surface disinfection, air filtration, physical isolation, PPE, vaccinations, etc.

Adding extra slices: what can we expect from IPC in the future?

Dr Weber said, ‘there is no magic bullet’ or at least there isn’t right now. However, it was clear that he believes UV disinfection and air filtration are going to continue to grow in popularity and importance – as well as evidence-lead solutions We all agreed that evidence will be key, whatever direction IPC goes in the future. In our everyday roles, Karen and I work closely with the GAMA team to educate and add clinical support to what we do. IP2021 not only gave us an opportunity to catch up with friends, but also a chance to prove that, at GAMA, we’re in that bunch of people populating the IPC world. We care about preventing infections and saving lives.

Thanks to Dr Phillip Norville for sharing this blog post! To find out more about the latest events GAMA has been attending, explore our Events & Exhibitions articles on our blog.



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