Outbreaks of infectious diseases can be a major threat to the public. Therefore, it’s important to have healthcare professionals trained in infection control and prevention. Nurses with this type of training play a vital role in protecting people by monitoring infectious diseases, taking steps to prevent them, and providing public health education.
If these kinds of responsibilities sound like the type of career you want, you might consider becoming an infection prevention and control nurse. Learning more about these nursing professions can help you decide if it’s a good fit for you.
What Is an Infection Prevention and Control Nurse?
Some infectious diseases can easily spread through populations unless these outbreaks are brought under control or stifled before they can truly begin. An infection prevention and control nurse is responsible for preventing and controlling the spread of infectious diseases. These nurses must accumulate an in-depth knowledge of pathogens in order to help them work toward lowering the risk of outbreaks or preventing an outbreak from spreading.
Infection prevention and control nurses share their knowledge with others as part of their job. They educate the public and other healthcare professionals on infectious diseases, such as teaching them prevention methods to stop a widespread outbreak. These nurses also play a role in containing outbreaks so that these pathogens don’t spread to other areas or populations. Rather than providing hands-on nursing care for those who are ill, infection prevention and control nurses often focus more on research and education. For example, they might focus on finding how and where an outbreak occurred to understand how to prevent it from happening in other places. This knowledge also helps them learn how to manage or contain a localized outbreak to stop a bigger outbreak from occurring.
Role of an Infection Prevention and Control Nurse
An infection control and prevention nurse is responsible for preventing and containing infectious diseases in healthcare environments. Although these facilities are kept as clean as possible, infectious diseases can still spread inside them, especially when outbreaks occur. An infection prevention and control nurse helps determine when, where, and how outbreaks might occur, then works to prevent them from occurring.
Taking these preventative steps helps reduce the risk of an infectious diseases causing widespread outbreaks.
When infectious diseases are already causing outbreaks, infection prevention and control nurses play a role in containment. For example, they might be responsible for containing an outbreak of an infectious disease in a hospital. Being able to contain this outbreak prevents it from spreading within the hospital and outside it. Containing these outbreaks in healthcare settings helps protect the public from these diseases.
Infection prevention and control nurses have several duties and responsibilities on the job. These might include gathering and analyzing data on infectious diseases and infection rates and trends. These nurses might also educate and train other healthcare professionals and members of the public on preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Other duties might include lowering the rate of infections in a healthcare facility, collaborating with researchers to develop effective treatments, and finding the origin of a specific infectious disease.
Where Do They Work?
Infection prevention and control nurses can work in a wide range of settings. Some of them work in hospitals, ambulatory care, home care, or long-term care facilities, while others work in public health or emergency preparedness. Infection prevention and control nurses also work in other healthcare settings, such as behavioral health facilities and hospices. These nurses can work in any environment within the healthcare field that has patients at risk of infectious disease outbreaks.
The type of place an infection prevention and control nurse works, years of experience, and other factors can affect their salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses, which include infection prevention and control nurses, have a median pay of $84,490 per year when they work in a government setting. Those who work in hospitals, including private and state hospitals, have a median salary of $76,840 per year. For those working in residential or long-term care facilities, the median pay is $68,450 per year.
The job outlook for infection prevention and control nurses is expected to continue growing. BLS states that the job outlook for registered nurses overall is 7 percent through 2029, which is higher than the average for all careers.
How to Become an Infection Prevention and Control Nurse
Becoming an infection prevention and control nurse involves being a registered nurse with the proper licensing. Keep in mind that exact licensing requirements for registered nurses may vary by state. In general, you’ll need to have an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) first, then pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Earning an ADN usually takes about 2 years, while earning a BSN takes about 4 years. When choosing a degree program, you should be aware that many healthcare employers typically prefer to hire nurses with a BSN.
Once you are a licensed registered nurse, you’ll need to spend at least 2 years gaining experience in infection control. The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology requires registered nurses to do this type of work before taking an exam to become certified. After sufficient experience in the field, you’ll need to take and pass the certification exam to work as an infection prevention and control nurse. The Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology administers this certification exam. When you have successfully completed the exam, you’ll be certified to work as an infection prevention and control nurse.
If you want to learn more about what an infection prevention and control nurse does, please contact American Sentinel College of Nursing and Health Science at Post University. We offer a Master of Science in Nursing with an Infection Prevention and Control Specialization. Our school also offers a Certificate in Infection Prevention and Control to help you reach your career goals in the nursing field.
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