Infection control nurses play an important role in the medical field, especially since infections are the main source of mortality and morbidity for nursing home residents.
Nursing homes are not the only facilities that have problems with infectious diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 20 hospitalized patients will contact a healthcare-associated infection every year. More recently, the focus has centered on MRSA and penicillin-resistant tuberculosis. This means infection control nurses, also called nurse preventionists or infection control specialists, perform a wide range of duties:
- They may be appointed by a medical facility as a coordinator for an infection and control program
- They determine, contain, and prevent outbreaks in the healthcare community
- Epidemiologic and surveillance investigations
- Research and education
- Collecting and analyzing data when a healthcare-associated infection occurs
- Monitor hazardous practices and procedures
- Give consultations on infection risk assessment, control, and prevention strategies
- Inform local, state, and federal authorities about reportable diseases
Infection control nurses work in the following settings:
- Ambulatory care
- Behavioral health
- Emergency preparedness
- Home care
- Long-term care facilities
- Public health
Infection control nurses are RNs who obtained an Associate of Science in Nursing degree (takes two years to complete with full-time attendance) or a Bachelor in Science of Nursing degree (takes four years to complete)
Upon graduation, you are eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination – Registered Nurse that is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Licensure is mandatory in all fifty states and the District of Columbia.
Certification is not mandatory to practice as an infection control nurse, but without it, finding a job will be difficult since most clinics and hospitals prefer to hire someone with the credential. In order to accomplish this, you must pass the Certification in Infection Control exam administered by the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology. Eligibility requirements are:
1. Graduation from a post-secondary school
2. Sufficient experience (at least two years is recommended) in infection prevention and control which includes:
- Identification of infection disease processes
- Surveillance and epidemiology investigation
- Preventing and controlling infectious disease transmissions
3. You will also need two of the five following components:
- Employee and occupational health
- Management and communication
- Education and research
- Environment of care
- Cleaning, sterilization, disinfection, and asepsis
All infection prevention professionals who become certified may use the internationally recognized initials CIC (certified in infection control) after their name and in their title. Recertification is required every five years.
The Importance of Certification
Certification in this field is important for several reasons:
- It proves you have an internationally recognized level of knowledge in infection control
- It makes you feel a sense of professional accomplishment
- It lets your colleagues and employer know about your commitment to professional growth in infection prevention and control by keeping your knowledge and skills current
Helpful Steps to Becoming an Infection Control Nurse
In order to gain the experience you need to take the certification exam, you can:
- Volunteer to serve on a nursing infection control committee and conduct infection control in-services for staff members
- Talk to the head nurse of your current department about adding infection prevention and control as one of your official duties
Career Outlook and Salary
The career outlook for infection control nurses is excellent. This is due to the increasing concerns over new and drug resistant organisms, pandemic flu outbreaks, and bioterrorism threats.
According to Salaryexpert.com, these nurses, if employed in large cities, earn a salary that ranges between $69,982 and $76,430. The employer, education, and certification play a large part in determining wages.
If an infection control nurse sounds like the career for you, contact us for more information.