The early outbreak of flu this season has caught the nation off-guard as it reached epidemic proportions, with 7.3 percent deaths according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is now the worst flu epidemic to date as vaccines run out of stock and several states declare public health emergencies.
This incident has emphasized attempts at prevention that go beyond vaccination and regular handwashing. In these times, never before has the Nurse Infection Prevention and Control Specialist been more important.
The rise of biohazards and medication-resistant microbes; the escalating potential deployment of bioterrorism weapons; and the government’s, press and insurers’ sharp focus on hospital-acquired conditions and patient safety, require the unique knowledge and skills of the Nurse Infection Prevention and Control Specialist (a.k.a. Infection Control Nurse or Nurse Infection Preventionist).
The role of the Nurse Infection Prevention and Control Specialist is straight forward: identify, prevent, and control outbreaks of infection in health care settings and the community; however, the activities, knowledge and skills required are exceptionally advanced and complex.
A Nurse Infection Preventionist’s expertise would be needed for:
- Long-term Care Facilities
- Ambulatory Care
- Home Care
- Public Health
- Behavioral Health
- Emergency Preparedness
While the role is straightforward, the span of activities to meet the responsibilities of the role is broad, and the methods are varied. Here are a few:
- Collect, analyze and interpret infection-control data
- Notify local, state and federal authorities about reportable diseases as required
- Plan, implement, manage and evaluate infection prevention and control activities
- Conduct infection control risk assessments for construction and renovation projects; equipment inspection, and pest control
- Educate individuals and groups about the risk, prevention, transmission, and control of infection, disease-specific care, appropriate precautions, and appropriate assessments
- Establish accepted standards and develop, implement, monitor and revise infection control policies and procedures to assure compliance with the standards
- Investigate, manage and conduct surveillance of suspected and confirmed outbreaks of infection
- Provide consultation on infection risk assessment, prevention, and control strategies
As a direct result of a Preventionist’s practice, environments are safer; patients, staff and the community are protected and receive expert care, and the institution’s fiscal position is made less vulnerable. In fact, an effective Nurse Infection Preventionist can reap satisfying, positive results.
The Knowledge and Skills
Based on the responsibilities of the role, the knowledge and skills required to be effective are diverse and specialized. Knowledge of microbiology, epidemiology, infectious diseases, sterilization and disinfection, medication, vaccine and antibiotic usage, statistics, and regulatory requirements are essential.
Skills such as consultation, teaching, data analysis and interpretation, and project management are essential as well. Most of these knowledge and skill sets are acquired beyond basic nursing education.
I’d like to hear from you. What are your experiences and challenges as a Nurse Infection Prevention and Control Specialist? Please share your questions or strategies with your fellow readers by commenting below or sending them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you!