Sometimes referred to as Infection Control Specialists or Nurse Infection Preventionists, Infection Control Nurses specialize in preventing, containing, and treating infectious diseases caused by agents like bacteria, parasites, viruses, and fungus. This requires exceedingly advanced skills and a vast knowledge base. Infection control nurses must have an intimate understanding of anatomy and physiology, epidemiology, as well as extensive knowledge regarding the infectious disease process and infection prevention techniques. Even within a sanitary environment that's been sterilized diligently, infectious agents are still easily spread, which can cause already vulnerable patients to become sick and possibly die. Facilities often assign infection control nurses to serve as the coordinator or executive of an Infection and Prevention Control (IPC) Program.
Infection control nurses most commonly find employment in the following settings:
The path toward becoming an infection control nurse is relatively straight forward. A mixture of education, pertinent training, and experience in the field are required for the role. Those interested in this nursing pathway should have a meticulous nature, embrace leadership, be calm under stress, and have a full understanding of how diseases and pathogens spread.
To become an infection control nurse, you must first graduate from a college or university with either an ADN degree or BSN degree. Many employers will prefer their nurses to have earned their bachelor’s degree in nursing at a minimum. Following graduation, you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam. In order to become eligible to sit for the Infection Control Certification Exam, which is administered by the Certification Board of Infection Control ad Epidemiology, you should have at least a few years of experience as a traditional RN. Upon passing the certification exam, you can then go on to become a fully certified Infection Control Nurse.
As per the International Federation of Infection Control, Infection Control Nurses (ICNs) are typically registered nurses (RNs) who possess the appropriate academic education and clinical training to be employed as a specialist adviser in aspects which are related to infection prevention and control. Most employers will require an RN to hold a BSN degree at minimum.
Core credentials/certifications for an Infection Control Nurse:
A course for healthcare professionals who are interested in infection prevention and control has been created by The Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. It's called the ‘Education for Prevention of Infection (EPI)' course, and aims to arm healthcare professionals with the knowledge and skills required for infection prevention and control, the promotion of infection surveillance, and compliance to state and federal regulations.
With the recent rise of so-called ‘superbugs' (i.e. treatment-resistant infectious agents), infection control nurses are highly valued healthcare team members. With their highly specialized skill set and knowledge base, the demand for infectious control nurses should stay constant for years to come.
PayScale has stated that the average Infection Control Nurse salary in the US was at $68,733 as of 2019. Salaries will depend greatly on a wide range of factors like city and state of employment, years of experience, education levels, and the employing organization. The same factors will contribute to the kinds of benefit packages that infection control nurses will receive. Most who are employed full-time will receive medical, dental, vision, and prescription insurance coverage, along with some paid time off each year.