Infection Control Nurse: Education and Career Information
It takes a special person to want to go into a room filled with patients who have been exposed to certain infections and diseases in an effort to help them get better. These nurses are infection control nurses and have a curious nature in what may have occurred to make the patients sick. These nurses take pride in what they do, and to a certain extent, have a scientific mind. They notify and work with the Centers for Disease Control in studying bacterial cultures and other things.
What does an Infection Control Nurse do?
Also called a Nurse Infection Preventionist or Infection Control Specialist, an infection control nurse is a specialist that helps prevent the spread of bacteria and infectious diseases. They must take every precaution to make sure areas are sanitized, ill patients are away from the general population, and they have contacted the proper regulatory authorities when needed. These nurses help educate other healthcare professionals and civilians on preventing the spread of infection, how to protect themselves, and repercussions of contamination.
These nurses are able to study different strains of bacteria to observe how they change and evolve and work with scientists and doctors to help prevent additional strains or outbreaks. These nurses are found in hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, public health facilities, emergency preparedness facilities, medical facilities and in government or research agencies. This nurse has a scientific background and is very adept in working with key players in a crisis. Other tasks for the infection control nurse include:
•Being able to recognize an outbreak of an infectious disease and isolate the situation in healthcare settings and in the community at large.
•Helping to strategize and create plans of action to prevent outbreaks.
•Helping collect and analyze data on the incidence of HAIs and the success or failure of various prevention strategies.
•Assisting in investigations of possible outbreaks and acquiring resources in response in the event of a confirmed outbreak.
•Serving as an infectious disease consultant for both healthcare providers and members of the community.
How much does an infection control nurse earn?
According to Salary.com, the average salary of an infection control nurse was $83,118. This salary range can go over $100,000 annually depending on the level of education, specialty, location, and experience. This is a highly specialized position that is becoming more in demand as infectious diseases continue to be introduced into society.
What types of skills are needed to become an infection control nurse?
An infection control nurse must have skills that are beyond the basic nursing education due to the diverse and specialized tasks of this role.
Communication Skills: An infection control nurse is a community advocate that must be able to educate the public and other healthcare professionals in a timely manner on infectious diseases, how to prevent them, and disseminate information in the event of an outbreak. They must be able to read and write clearly and cohesively to make sure all the information needed is present and accountable.
Decision-Making Skills: An infection control nurse must be able to make quick decisions. When dealing with infectious diseases, time is always of the essence. They must be able to determine when governmental agencies should be notified, and know when to isolate patients who are in crisis and could become contagious.
Research: An infection control nurse must have extensive research skills and a vast knowledge based of infectious diseases.
Computer Skills: The nurse must be able to properly handle all technology and computer equipment to safely manage records, perform research and obtain the information needed to perform their role.
Supervisory Skills: Supervisory skills are a must, as the infection control nurse must direct others on what to do and when to do it. They should have a high level of supervisory experience to draw from as they will be in charge of a number of situations that must work together to get the job done. These are project managers and must be adept in consultation, teaching, data analysis and interpretation.
Clinical Skills: Clinical skills are a must. The infection control nurse must be able to understand the human anatomy and how it works. They must also have extensive knowledge of infectious diseases, sterilization, disinfections, vaccine and antibiotic usage, medication and regulatory requirements.
Every program has certain clinical internship requirements that must be completed. The number of hours vary based on the educational level, requirements of the program, and specialty in which the student is seeking. There are a number of techniques and protocol learned on the job, and through graduate level programs.
In order to become an infection control nurse, the student must first obtain training. This requires a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) from an accredited program. Coursework in this program specialty includes microbiology, bio-statistics, epidemiology, urban and social health issues, history of infectious diseases and public health, which are more in-depth when pursuing a graduate degree.
Once the student graduates from the program, they have to demonstrate basic nursing skills and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to show proficiency in the knowledge and technical skills required to perform the job. Some states require the nursing license to be renewed every two to three years.
Once the nurse obtains their license, getting practical application in the field is needed. Infection control nurses have a Certification in Infection Prevention and Control (CIC), which is awarded by the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology (CIBC). This certification is highly recommended to demonstrate expertise in this area as designated by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control. This certification provides nurses with an additional opportunity for advancement. This certification test can only be taken after the nurse has worked in this area for at least two years. There are a series of questions that must be answered to even determine whether or not the nurse is qualified to sit for the exam. After certification is obtained, the nurse must renew their certification every four to five years. There are a number of associations that are available for nurses in this profession, including the Association for Professionals in Infection Control.
This is a very lucrative and rewarding career path for a nurse who loves science and is interested in the different diseases and infections that plague society. If you are one of those individuals who wants to contribute to making a difference and want to be on the front lines of a possible outbreak to find a solution, this may be the right career choice for you.