Counting on the Data to Make Key Decisions: Sierra View's Infection Prevention Team

Patients arrive at Sierra View for a variety of reasons. Some patients are here to bring new life into the world, while others come at their most vulnerable. Whatever the case, the Sierra View Medical Center teams work to ensure the safety and high-quality patient care each individual receives. One team, in particular, has the responsibility to help prevent infections throughout the hospital floors through scientific research-based tactics. The Infection Prevention team helps lead Sierra View Medical Center’s strategy to prevent, contain or treat infections identified within the hospital and in any of its outpatient facilities. Please join us in celebrating them as we observe International Infection Prevention Week (October 17-23, 2021).

The Infection Prevention team consists of four women in science. They report to Vice President of Quality and Regulatory Affairs Dr. Melissa Fuentes, DHA, LCSW, CCM, CPHQ, and Director for Nursing of the DP/SNF Dr. Kris Reddell, DNP, RN, CNML, respectively.

• Dr. Nancy Hurtado-Ziola, PhD (Infection Prevention Manager)

• Elvia Gutierrez, BSN, RN, IP (Infection Control Registered Nurse)

• Teresa R. Carranza (Infection Prevention Analyst)

• Cathy Richards, LVN (Infection Prevention LVN, DP/SNF)

By the Numbers

COVID-19 is currently one of the biggest priorities for Sierra View’s Infection Preventionists (IPs), but the team continues to keep a close eye not only on COVID-19 but other possible infections within the hospital. These include Central Line-associated Bloodstream Infections (CLABSI), Catheter-associated Urinary Tract Infections (CAUTI), and multi-drug resistance organisms (MDROs) such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), to name a few. Since March 2020, the team has been moving quickly to help the hospital adapt to evolving guidelines regarding safe patient care and employee safety. The key to remaining responsive, says Infection Prevention Manager Dr. Nancy Hurtado-Ziola, PhD is “having the numbers.” Focusing on statistics and values is essential to making informed recommendations for the hospital. “Everything here is very much a science, and so we have to have the data that backs everything up.”

Crunching the numbers is the domain that Infection Prevention Analyst Teresa Carranza focuses on daily. Every day, she and Infection Control Registered Nurse Elvia Gutierrez, BSN, RN, IP, go over the case files for every hospitalized patient throughout the hospital. “We investigate whether there are any signs of infections,” says Carranza. They also continue to monitor the rate of infections related to COVID-19 and report it at the beginning of each day. This level of collaboration and transparency helps hospital administrators and teams make real-time decisions always with the patients’ best interest in mind. The integrity of their recommendations is always grounded in research and their daily investigations. From the long-term care point of view, Infection Prevention LVN for the Distinct Part/Skilled Nursing Facility Cathy Richards also takes plenty of research to stay current in her field. For Richards, keeping a close eye on the data involved in skilled nursing patient care is also enjoyable.

Multidisciplinary Team of Women in Science

A love of learning brings the four Infection Prevention team members together. Their diversity in backgrounds and experiences is a point of strength. For Gutierrez, a career in infection prevention seemed like a natural progression following her years in bedside nursing in the hospital’s Medical-Surgical department and as an Endoscopy nurse. “It’s almost like working backstage, getting everything ready,” says Gutierrez, RN. She says her team’s work helps the frontline staff deliver care accurately in an evidence-based way. “You love the contribution you can make by learning and applying what you learn and sharing that with fellow staff members so they can take the precautions to be safe and do the right thing.” Carranza brings with her a background in statistics. The department’s manager, Dr. Hurtado-Ziola comes from a background in immune system bioresearch. She earned her Doctorate in Biomedical Science from UC San Diego School of Medicine and moved to Porterville earlier in the year from New Mexico, where she was teaching at the college level. For local residents wishing to also pursue a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Hurtado-Ziola says there are many opportunities, including in fields like infection prevention. “I feel that my work here has put me in that intersection between medicine and policy,” she says. “My biggest hope is that I can be effective in serving our patients at SVMC and our community at large. To add to that mission, Richards brings 45 years of nursing experience. Richard’s career has included working closely with physicians and clinical teams in critical care and emergency room settings. Her current assignment involves ensuring infection rates are kept low for patients who are often on ventilators within the hospital’s skilled nursing facility.

Prevention in the Community

The Infection Prevention team operates from within hospital facilities. Still, they provide plenty of information to the community about things to look out for. The team helps declare Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and flu season yearly. They issue recommendations about protection from respiratory viruses and also raise awareness about sepsis. Lately, they also have been dedicated to stressing the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine. While the COVID-19 vaccine does not guarantee individuals will not become infected with the deadly virus, it has proven very successful in lessening the severity of the illness and preventing hospitalizations. “What vaccination does for you,” says Dr. Hurtado-Ziola “is help train your body to look out for the danger in that virus.” This, she points out, allows human bodies to learn how to fight should individuals become infected and can save lives.

The work of the team is round-the-clock. The next time you or a loved one visit the hospital, you can rest assured that there is a passionate group of individuals working in the background to ensure that individuals and families in the southern region of Tulare County can experience the safest care possible. This includes our community’s youngest patients to those who are most vulnerable.

Stay Informed

For more on International infection Prevention Week, visit For a list of health care services Sierra View Medical Center offers, visit For those ready to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine administered by Sierra View Medical Center in partnership with Imperial Ambulance and Tulare County Health & Human Services (TCHHSA) is available at