Healthcare Infection Control 101
There are several means by which a registered nurse (RN) or a licensed practical nurse (LPN) can become an infection control nurse, also referred to as an infection prevention nurse, in the facility in which he or she is employed. Some RNs holding master’s degrees have specialized in infection control or epidemiology as part of their graduate education. Other nurses have discovered their affinity for the discipline after sitting on procedure committees for their institutions or working with their own facility’s designated nurse or department. While most websites indicate that this position requires at least licensure as a registered nurse, the primary accreditation organization for healthcare infection control, the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology (CBIC), accepts LPN-prepared nurses as long as they meet the other eligibility requirements.
Steps to Becoming an Infection Prevention Nurse
After licensure as an RN or a LPN, or a decision to pursue this specialty, most nurses either apply for a transfer to their facility’s infection control department or formally adopt infection control and prevention intervention responsibilities, in addition to one’s regular job duties. In what can be a “Catch 22” situation, most Infection Control departments will not consider hiring nurses without experience and credentials in the field while the major credentialing organization will not allow nurses to sit for their examination without documented experience in the field.
Initial, Exploratory Steps to Becoming an Infection Control Nurse
- Volunteer to sit on nursing infection control committees and conduct infection control educational in-services for staff;
- Consult with the head nurse of your current position in order to add infection prevention and control as one of your formal primary roles;
- Seek out and complete applicable online classes offered by different education institutions to obtain Infection Prevention and Control Certificate or an Online Graduate Certificate in Infection Control.
- Initiate a transfer to your facility’s Infection Control Department.
Steps to Becoming a Certified Infection Prevention Nurse
A certified Infection Preventionist (IP) is a healthcare worker who has successfully passed a computerized examination administered through the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology (CBIC). Enrollment to take the examination includes a requirement that the individual has completed “sufficient experience” in the field, an unspecified timeframe generally estimated to approximate two years of infection prevention experience.
CBIC Steps to Certification
- Review the CBIC evaluation eligibility requirements.
- Apply online at the CBIC site,
- Complete the Computer-Based Test (CBT) and obtain your score immediately. A certification will follow in four to six weeks with successful completion of the test.
Eligibility Requirements for Initial Certification
According to the CBIC, an individual has to meet all the following requirements In order to qualify to sit for an initial certification or renew a lapsed certification via the computer-based test (CBT). Recertification is required every four to five years via the online Self-Achievement Recertification Examination (SARE). The following information is quoted directly from the website in order to ensure that paraphrasing the information will not exclude one or more of the specified instructions:
“You are a licensed or certified healthcare professional (including, but not limited to, registered nurse, licensed/registered practical nurse (LPN, RN), nurse practitioner, physician, medical technologist, respiratory therapist) with current registration/certification in good standing with the appropriate licensing board/certification/governing body (e.g. state/provincial medical licensure; state/provincial nursing association or board, etc.), OR has a minimum of a baccalaureate degree;
- You are currently working in healthcare;
- Infection prevention and control is one of your primary roles/responsibilities in your current position;
- You have had sufficient experience in infection prevention and control, which must include active roles in:
- Collection, analysis and interpretation of infection prevention outcome data; AND
- Investigation and surveillance of suspected outbreaks of infection; AND
- At least 3 of the following additional activities:
- Planning, implementation and evaluation of infection prevention and control measures;
- Education of individuals about infection prevention and control;
- Development and revision of infection prevention and control policies and procedures;
- Management of infection prevention and control activities;
- Consultation on infection prevention and control risk assessment, and prevention and control strategies.”
Application Requirements for Initial Certification
According to the CBIC, all of the following application requirements must be met:
- A fully completed and signed application form;
- Proof of current licensure (paper copy or web link verification);
- A copy of the diploma or degree for those applicants holding a baccalaureate degrees;
- A fully completed and signed employment verification from the applicant’s supervisor (additional requirements are necessary for self-employed applicants);
- The examination fee of $310 for US applicants or $345 for international testing.
The cost of the initial exam (the Computer-Based Test or CBT) is $310, with an additional $35 for international testing.