Infectious disease nursing is a specialty position that involves the monitoring and prevention of infectious diseases, such as pox, measles, hepatitis and HIV/AIDS. Becoming an infectious disease nurse requires education beyond the standard education required to become an RN, and the position’s salary reflects those additional education requirements. As a general rule, infectious disease nursing pays higher than many other nursing careers.
Some infectious disease nurses work in traditional nursing traditions, treating and caring for patients, but this is not standard. Most nurses with specialties in infectious disease work in research, policy-making, and administrative positions. This makes an infectious nursing career more of a joint laboratory or desk job than many other nursing specialties.
For the most part, work in the field of infectious disease consists of planning, but infectious disease nurses may be called in on emergency situations if a patient enters a hospital or clinic with a potentially infectious disease. This makes the ability to work under pressure a must for career nurses.
Work Environment and Job Duties
Nurses who specialize in infectious disease find employment largely in community health centers, which include state-run clinics and hospitals. If a nurse works in policy or administration, the nurse commonly works office hours, such as a nine-to-five schedule. If an infectious disease nurse works as a nurse practitioner in a nursing department, such as pediatrics or surgery, hours are more typical nurses hours, which may mean long shifts and chaotic schedules.
Typical duties of an infectious disease nurse include:
•Working with hospital administrators on planning
•Educating nurses on proper sanitation methods
•Examination of patient cultures for infectious disease
Requirements and Education
The starting point for a career in infectious disease is the same as any nursing career. A successful candidate must hold either an associate or bachelor degree in nursing. To qualify for a career in infectious disease nursing, a candidate will also have a background in infectious disease epidemiology, obtained through courses during his or her college education.
As in any nursing field, a candidate for an infectious disease nursing career must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to become a registered nurse, but obtaining a career in infectious disease also requires the passing of the certification exam administered through the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology. Once certified in the field, a nurse working in an infectious disease position must retake the exam every five years to renew the certification.
While a master’s degree is not a requirement to become an infectious control, many clinics and hospitals prefer candidates with this higher-level of education. For candidates aiming for careers in infectious disease education, such as becoming a professor in a nursing program, a master’s degree is generally required.
Salary and Career Outlook
Infectious disease nursing is considered a clinical specialty, putting it amongst the highest paying jobs in the nursing field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses earned a median wage of $65,950 in 2011, while the highest paid nursing careers earned an average wage of $96,630. Infectious disease nurses can expect to make a salary closer to the high end of the BLS scale.
The major factors that impact the wages of an infectious disease control nurse include the environment in which one is employed and position. The median wage for nurses is highest in specialty hospitals and in home healthcare services, according to the BLS, with a discrepancy of nearly $10,000 between the two. It varies even more broadly in the educational field. Nursing instructors in technical and trade schools earn a mean wage of $58,220, according to the BLS, while educators who work in specialty hospitals earn a mean wage of $99,070.
As the world’s population grows, so does the threat of infectious disease, and the infectious disease field is growing along with it. The BLS expects growth of 24-percent between 2010 and 2020, a faster-than-average growth rate in comparison to the rest of the American job market. This expected growth will provide those on the infectious disease nursing career path substantial job opportunity over the next decade.