What Does an Infection Control Practitioner Do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An infection control practitioner works with personnel in a health care facility to limit the spread of disease. This includes implementing general policies to protect patients and care providers, as well as consulting in specific cases where there are particular concerns. Requirements to become an infection control practitioner can depend on the institution but usually include at least a Bachelor of Science in nursing, with a master’s degree preferred. Experience on the job, as well as membership in professional organizations, can also be valuable for applicants, particularly at large facilities.

An infection control practitioner teaches courses on managing infections.
An infection control practitioner teaches courses on managing infections.

On the job, an infection control practitioner engages in constant monitoring and surveillance to make sure hospital personnel follow protocol. This can include visiting wards, interviewing staff members, and sitting in on training sessions for new hires. Periodic testing of patients can also be part of the job, to identify people who may carry dangerous infectious diseases. Some patients are carriers without being aware of it, making it important to test people in sensitive areas of the facility for potentially hazardous organisms.

An infection control practitioner must have extensive knowledge of how infections work.
An infection control practitioner must have extensive knowledge of how infections work.

New policy development to manage infection also falls under the job responsibilities for an infection control practitioner. This requires keeping up with developments in the field so the latest research and standards can be used. People may attend conferences, subscribe to trade journals, and participate in research to make sure they stay current with infection control practices. As facilities implement new policies, it may be necessary to change the nature of employee training, order new supplies, and take other steps to make sure the transition goes smoothly.

An infection control practitioner works closely with other members of a patient's care team.
An infection control practitioner works closely with other members of a patient's care team.

Some facilities use an infection control practitioner to train new staff and teach refresher courses on managing infection. In other cases, the practitioner may write the relevant section of the employee manual. Direct training can also be provided to supervisors and other key staff members. This top-down approach keeps employees current on hospital policy and health care standards so they provide the best care to patients and protect themselves from infection.

An infection control practitioner may work directly with patients who are immunocompromised.
An infection control practitioner may work directly with patients who are immunocompromised.

In cases where patients carry dangerous infections or are immunocompromised and thus at higher risk, the infection control practitioner may be called in as a consultant. Along with other members of the care team, this member of the staff can implement policies for handling the patient safely and effectively. These can include using isolation rooms, requiring personnel to wear gowns and masks, and requesting frequent tests to monitor the patient’s immune function and infection levels.

Fever is a potential warning sign of an infection.
Fever is a potential warning sign of an infection.
An infection control practitioner engages in constant monitoring to ensure that hospital personnel follow protocol.
An infection control practitioner engages in constant monitoring to ensure that hospital personnel follow protocol.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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