Infection Control Nurse

Infection Control NurseInfections are a primary source of mortality and morbidity for nursing home residents, accounting nearly 50% of all nursing home transfers to hospitals. In fact, when a nursing home patient is admitted to a hospital with an admitting diagnosis of infection, the mortality rate can reach up to 40%. Respiratory, skin and soft tissue, and urinary tract infections are among the most common hospital-acquired infections.

Management of an infectious outbreak can be time-consuming and hefty. As such, it is important every medical or healthcare facility implement effective infection prevention and control programs to help reduce adverse consequences and contain costs. To fulfill such need and address the issue, a facility will need the unique knowledge and skills of an Infection Control Nurse, also known as Nurse Infection Prevention and Control Specialist. 

Often called as Nurse Infection Preventionist or Infection Control Specialist, a facility may assign an Infection Control Nurse to act as the coordinator or leader of an Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Program. In general, the infection control nurses’ role is straightforward – to determine, prevent, and contain infectious outbreaks in the healthcare setting or community. This nurse function requires exceptionally advanced skills and knowledge.

Responsibilities may include gathering, analyzing, and presenting infection data, facts, and trends to healthcare practitioners and nurse staff, providing training and education, working on infection risk assessment and reinforcing the implementation of infection control practices, which includes those guidelines from CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). The expertise of an infection control nurse is needed in the following healthcare settings:

  • Long-term care facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Home Care
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Hospices
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Public Health
  • Behavioral Health

Education Requirements

To achieve this challenging yet rewarding career as an Infection Control Nurse, follow the steps below:

  1. Obtain your Nursing Diploma, whether it is an Associate degree (ASN) or Bachelor’s degree (BSN). The Associate of Science in Nursing degree takes about two years or more to complete at a university or college, whereas a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing generally takes four years in a university or college – preparing you for leadership and bedside nursing roles. Both courses qualify you to take the Nursing Licensure Examination.
  2. Once you passed the NCLEX-RN, you can start working as a registered nurse.
  3. To be eligible for the position as the Infection Control Nurse, it is necessary to pass the infection control certification exam, which is given by the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology. Your certification will need renewed every five years.
  4. Once you passed the certification examination you can become a certified infection control nurse.

The Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology developed a course for both new and experienced healthcare professionals. Termed as the ‘Education for Prevention of Infection (EPI)’ course, this course aims excellence and knowledge of infection prevention and control, promoting infection surveillance, compliance to federal and state regulations, etc.

Job Description & Duties

According to the International Federation of Infection Control, an Infection Control Nurse (ICN) or Practitioner is generally a registered nurse possessing the academic education and practical training – allowing him or her to work as a specialist advisor in every aspect related to Infection prevention and control. An ICN will be a full-time practitioner on the Infection Control team and as such, assume an important role in the daily IPC activities.

With patient safety as the primary goal of all nursing practices, here are the primary responsibilities and role of ICN:

  1. Identify infectious disease processes
  2. Epidemiologic and surveillance investigations
  3. Control and prevention of transmission of infectious agents
  4. Review or assessment of occupational and employee health
  5. Leadership (communication and management)
  6. Research and education

An ICN assists when developing and implementing procedures and policies, creates tools relating to infection diseases, and collaborates in auditing. Also, they provide a specialist input when it comes to prevention, monitoring, identification, and infection control. They also monitor hazardous procedures and practices, and participate in documentation related to quality standard and service specifications. 

Job Outlook and Salary

In terms of career outlook, the general nursing profession is expected to grow and will remain a stable producer of employment as it is projected to increase by over 20% between 2010 and 2020. Nurses ina specialized field, such as infection control,will have positive outlook because increased awareness and cultural interest in the prevention and control of infectious diseases.

As for the salary, the amount of money an infection control nurse makes is quite high for the fact this is a specialized field of nursing. Expected average income is $75,000 a year.  This is the average figure; expect to make a bit more or less depending on the geographical location, experience, and the degree the nurse holds. Because this is a nursing specialty, a strong educational background is a must for nurses working as an Infection Control Specialist. This specialty is one of the high paying positions within the nursing field.