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An infection control nurse is the hospital nurse who is first notified of infections or diseases in a particular area; these may have been discovered on site at his hospital or may be external and pose a potential threat to his community at large. His primary responsibility is to prevent the spread of the infection to patients, families and hospital personnel. This requires in-depth knowledge of national and international diseases and their immediate and future threats. He may also manage the hospital’s infection control program.
Educating staff is an important part of the infection control nurse position. The staff members often are the primary contacts for patents and families. If they are well informed, they can properly alert people, advise them on protocols and generally instill feelings of confidence and safety.
To be a proficient educator and provide the highest level of safety, the infection control nurse is generally required to know as many details as possible about controllable infections and diseases. He gathers information from international databases, and after determining what diseases may require immediate attention, he discusses the situation with other nurses, physicians and other hospital personnel. They use their combined knowledge and expertise to devise the best plans of action.
When no immediate threats are present, the infection control nurse often educates himself on potential threats and risk factors. He studies applicable policies and procedures, epidemiologic principles and case studies reflecting victories and challenges faced by other hospitals and communities. The educational process for this position never ends, as new diseases and variations on current diseases can emerge on a daily basis.
In the event of an infectious disease crisis, the infection control nurse typically decides the course of action for those affected and those in danger. This may involve setting up quarantines, dividing those afflicted into control groups and providing meticulous reports on patient conditions, progress and anomalies. The nurse also may communicate results and take recommendations for action from domestic and international disease control agencies and experts.
If the disease is suspected to have local origins, the nurse commonly must investigate possible sources of contamination. This may entail inspecting water, air and food supplies and determining if the infected people have any commonalities in where they live or work. These determinations can be vital to isolating the source of contamination and devising curative or preventive measures.
Preparing detailed reports that can be utilized by other health care organizations is generally a requirement of this position. Links between diseases are often found and accurate documentation is helpful to isolating and eliminating them. The content of these reports commonly becomes part of manuals utilized by health care professionals worldwide.
Requirements to become an infection control nurse are basic. A registered nurse with two to three years experience can specialize in the field by achieving certification in infection control. Aside from the certification, natural analytical and problem solving abilities are desirable, as are interpersonal communication skills.