Whether you’re just beginning to plot your career path or are ready for a career change, it’s important to find a job that is rewarding both personally and professionally. For years, the health care industry has been the go-to location for careers that offer excellent salaries, numerous benefits, personal satisfaction, and great job growth. And it’s likely to remain that way.
One career path in the field is that of an infection preventionist. These nursing professionals handle a variety of tasks that help combat disease and serve the greater good while earning great pay. If you’re looking for more information on becoming an infection preventionist, keep reading.
What Is an Infection Preventionist?
An infection preventionist is a type of nurse who holds an RN degree but who specializes in preventing infections and helping stop people from getting sick. The name ‘infection preventionist’ is just one of several that may be applied to these professionals, and they are also referred to as a nurse epidemiologist or an infection control nurse. But no matter what they’re called, the duties are generally the same.
An infection preventionist will often do a number of things including:
- Conduct research and studies to identify disease patterns in public or within a facility
- Develop programs and initiatives that will reduce the chance of contracting disease
- Conduct interviews to better understand the spread of disease
- Collect samples and conduct lab work to recognize problem areas
- Prepare reports that may be used for community education or to modify health policy
While epidemiologists usually do these things on a larger scale, a nurse preventionist usually works within a hospital, health facility, or other location. They’ll work to prevent outbreaks and try to trace outbreaks back to the source to help quarantine the individuals and ensure the disease doesn’t spread.
A few key personal characteristics are important for an infection preventionist to have. These skills and strong points will help enhance their ability to do their job.
- Good People Skills – It’s common to interview patients and discuss issues with colleagues. As such, good people skills are required.
- Strong Critical Thinking Skills – Since tracking down diseases, recognizing patterns, and figuring out the best course of prevention are important parts of the job, strong critical thinking is needed.
- Good Math Skills – Often, data must be analyzed to reach certain conclusions. Math skills will help analyze the data and make it easier to prepare reports for others.
- Willingness to Put Self at Risk – Often, the infection preventionist must come face to face with numerous diseases. A strong immune system and knowledge of personal infection prevention are important, but it’s important to be willing to risk getting sick to help others.
Nature of the Work
A normal day as an infection preventionist will usually include a few things. Surveillance of the population of the facility is the starting point, and much time is spent investigating outbreaks and illnesses and tracking them to ensure an outbreak doesn’t occur. Collecting samples, doing interviews, and analyzing data will help lead an infection preventionist to the source of a particular issue.
If a problem is found, developing strategies to prevent an outbreak will be a must. This can include education, quarantine measures, and much more. The infection preventionist will work with others in the facility to start the needed steps for preventing the disease’s spread. Preventionists will also observe the actions of staff members and design educational programs to help them improve the practices for the reduction of disease in the facility.
Today, infection preventionists will find work almost anywhere. Hospitals, nursing facilities, and other health oriented locations are the most common, but large companies and government agencies will often have a need for them as well.
Education and Training
Most infection preventionists are RNs with a bachelor’s in the field. Usually, a specialization course will help with landing a job. Special certification like Certification in Infection Control will help one improve their chances of employment. In some cases an MPH may be held instead of a bachelor’s degree.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the job outlook for this field is on target with the national average at about 10%. Additionally, average salaries for those entering the field is roughly $65,270.