In the age of the “Superbug” or infection that is nonresponsive to antibiotic therapy, the increase in the visibility and responsibilities of the infection control nurse is demonstrable. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as well as Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have put in place requirements and assessment goals that require specific adherence to measures that control the outbreak of preventable hospital acquired infections.
The role of an infection control nurse is multi-tiered and requires a professional license, as well as experience in nursing that ensures knowledge in the principles of epidemiology, the origin and causes of disease.
Duties and Skills
•Monitoring – One of the primary responsibilities of the infection control nurse and staff is monitoring the occurrence of infection in the clinical setting. Data on the patient population, the types of infections involved and the causes and treatment of infection is compiled and analyzed to address continuing improvements in the operation and control of preventable diseases.
•Prevention – The infection control staff will follow guidelines set out by the CDC and CMS, as well as other licensing bodies including the Certification Board of Infection Control (CBIC) to assure the hospital and clinical setting are operating optimally to reduce the occurrence of preventable infections.
•Education – Infection control education takes places on different levels and addresses the different populations in the hospital setting. The infection control nurse or staff will be responsible for the initial and ongoing training of the hospital staff in the prevention of the spread of infection. This will include education in hand washing, equipment usage, as well as handling patients and guests.
•Reporting – Reporting takes place on several levels. Not only is the infection control nurse and staff compiling reports on occurrences from the staff, they also keep records on the education and classes they deliver to the staff on infection control. This will include initial hospital orientation, as well as ongoing training as required and changes to policies as they are determined and outlined. In addition, this information is relayed to infection control bodies such as the CDC and CMS for adherence and ongoing evaluations of policies and procedures.
•Adherence – As with other areas of skills and responsibilities, adherence to guidelines for infection control takes place on several levels. The infection control nurse will evaluate each area in a clinical setting to assure policies are being followed and make recommendations on improvements. In addition to assuring that the staff is adherent to hospital guidelines, the infection control nurse is also responsible for updating the clinical policies and guidelines set out by controlling organizations. In recent years, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have made clinical organization financially responsible for the care necessary to treat hospital acquired infections.
•Skills – In addition to licensure and a minimum of a Bachelor Degree in Nursing, many organizations will require a certification in infection control. Optimally, a candidate for a position as an infection control nurse will also have several years of nursing experience in a hospital setting including practical experience in infection control. Practical experience can be acquired through a program or volunteering for certain responsibilities in an assigned unit of nursing.
Infection control has become one of the most important positions in healthcare. As the increased use of antibiotics has laid the groundwork for increased resistance of infection to certain treatments, the role of an infection control nurse to monitor occurrences and educate patients and staff on the prevention and control of diseases has grown. They have become the first line of defense and information for everyone entering the healthcare setting.