What Does an Infection Control Nurse Do?
Infection control nurses, also known as infection prevention nurses, are specially trained to help reduce the number of patient infections in hospitals and other health care facilities and to help prevent the spread of communicable diseases. To accomplish this, they instruct other nurses and health care staff in proper hand-washing and sanitation procedures, as well as study bacterial cultures taken from patients to identify any infections that resulted from the way a patient’s health care was managed. In this way, the infection control nurse helps develop a plan to produce better patient outcomes in the future. This process may also help shine a light on health care professionals who are doing a poor job of preventing infections in patients. Infection control nurses are usually the ones responsible for notifying the closest branch of the Centers for Disease Control if there is an outbreak of a particularly pervasive infection, such as the H1N1 virus (swine flu).
How Can I Become an Infection Control Nurse?
The first step toward becoming an infection control nurse is to complete an approved nursing education program. The most common way of doing this is to earn a degree in nursing. Most people earn either an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university. Less common is earning a nursing diploma, a program typically offered through hospitals. After completing a nursing program, all future nurses go on to take an exam called the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) so they can become licensed to practice nursing in their state. After gaining significant experience as a staff nurse and later accumulating clinical experience working in infection control, you can proceed to become certified through the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. by taking an examination. This certification must be renewed by examination every five years. Infection control nurses that study bacterial cultures as part of their job often must be laboratory-trained with strong science backgrounds; these nurses often have master’s degrees.
What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for an Infection Control Nurse?
The career outlook for nurses overall is excellent, and those who specialize in a particular area of health care, such as infection control, are often highly sought-after. However, because infection control is such a niche career, it may be difficult to find open positions in the field. Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual salary for an infection control nurse is between $52,809 and $69,048, according to online compensation site Payscale.com. However, a number of factors can affect your salary as an infection control nurse, including how many years of experience you have, what certifications you have, what region of the U.S. you live in, and whether you are working in a metropolitan or rural area. Advanced practice nurses (who are trained at the master’s level) also earn significantly higher salaries on average.