Infection Control Nurse Career Overview

NurseJournal Staff
Updated February 28, 2023
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    Learn about career options for infection control nurses, infectious disease nurse jobs, and infection control nurse salary expectations.
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    how long to become

    job outlook

    job outlook7% growth from 2019-2029For Registered Nurses (RNs)

    average earning potential

    average earning potential$72,150SOURCE: PayScale

    What Does an Infection Control Nurse Do?

    ADN or BSN required
    certification optional

    Infection control nurses educate other healthcare professionals and staff, patients, and the public on preventing infections and either apply or recommend evidence-based best practices. Responsibilities for infection control nurse jobs may include the following:

    Primary Responsibilities

    • Training and educating healthcare providers
    • Communicating with the public and patients on infection control
    • Overseeing safety practices such as handwashing
    • Managing internal infection prevention campaigns
    • Reviewing infection cases and recommending changes to avoid recurrences

    Key Skills

    • Meticulous
    • Collaborative
    • Creativity
    • Foresight

    Tempura / E+ / Getty Images

    Where Do Infection Control Nurses Work?

    Infection control nurses mostly find employment in hospitals, residential care facilities, and other healthcare settings, but they also work for government and emergency preparedness organizations.

    • minusHospitals

      Infection control nurses direct infection control practices, advise colleagues, and educate patients.

    • minusResidential Care

      Infection control nurses manage sanitation and other infection control practices, keep colleagues up-to-date on latest developments, and problem solve for potential health risks.

    • minusPublic Health Centers

      Infection control nurses serve as a resource for public officials and the public, establish sanitation protocols, and collaborate with government agencies and businesses on sanitation practices and disease prevention.

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    Why Become an Infection Control Nurse?

    Infection control nurse jobs can be very gratifying because they play a vital role in public health. Additionally, infectious disease nurse salaries are typically above the U.S. average. However, one of the challenges of being an infection control nurse includes managing frustration when people, sometimes even healthcare professionals, do not comply with protocols.

    Advantages to Becoming an Infection Control Nurse

    • check-circleHigh impact on public safety and health
    • check-circleOpportunities to innovate on safety campaigns and protocols
    • check-circlePublic awareness and appreciation

    Disadvantages to Becoming an Infection Control Nurse

    • x-circleHandling potentially stressful and frustrating situations when people do not follow best practices
    • x-circleLimited authority to mandate prevention guidelines
    • x-circleCan be difficult to track and trace infections

    How to Become an Infection Control Nurse

    Earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or an associate degree in nursing (ADN).

    An ADN takes two years and a BSN takes four. Many infection control nurse jobs require the BSN.

    Pass the NCLEX-RN to receive RN licensure.

    This national exam covers health conditions, nursing practice, communications, and the legal and ethical aspects of nursing.

    Gain nursing experience in infection prevention and control.

    Infectious disease nurses get their first experience in entry-level jobs, working under the supervision of more experienced nurses or infectious disease nurse practitioners (NPs).

    Consider earning certification in infection prevention and control.

    The entry-level Associate – Infection Prevention and Control (a-IPC) certification is open to anybody without any prerequisites. The Certification in Infection Prevention and Control (CIC) is designed for professionals with primary responsibility for infection control and at least two years of experience.

    Advance your career by earning a graduate degree.

    RNs can earn a master of science in nursing with an NP focus. Infectious disease NP salaries are considerably higher than infectious disease nurse salaries and infection control practitioners have more autonomy and responsibility.

    Learn More About How To Become an Infection Control Nurse

    How Much Do Infection Control Nurses Make?

    The average annual salary for an infection control nurse is $72,152, comparable to the $73,300 median annual salary for all RNs. However, NPs generally earn a higher salary than RNs, including those who specialize in infection control. The median annual salary for nurse practitioners is $115,800.

    Overall, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 7% growth for all nursing jobs. It is possible but not certain that there may be a higher demand for infection control nurses post-COVID.

    What Are the Six Core Competencies of an Infection Preventionist?

    1. Professional Stewardship

    Professional stewardship encompasses accountability, ethical standards, appropriate management of resources, and other forms of responsibility to the profession and to stakeholders.

    2. Research

    Research includes not just conducting and publishing research but evaluating others’ research findings, understanding how to identify the most effective practices from research studies, and applying those findings as appropriate.

    3. Infection Prevention Control (IPC) Operations

    IPC operations includes all aspects of infection prevention control, such as routine cleaning and sterilization, epidemiology, appropriate use of antibiotics, and education.

    4. Quality Improvement

    Quality improvement is the discipline of consistently gathering and analyzing data about performance to identify improvement opportunities at every level of detail and complexity.

    5. IPC Informatics

    IPC informatics involves the gathering, storing, and analyzing of relevant data. This also includes finding new ways of gathering data, such as performing surveillance, to receive earlier detection and respond faster to infections.

    6. Leadership

    Leadership includes communication and critical thinking, understanding management and behavioral sciences, collaboration with various teams, program management, and mentorship.

    Questions About a Career as an Infection Control Nurse

    How long does it take to become an infection control nurse?

    It takes two years for the ADN degree and four years for the BSN. Certification and upper-level infectious disease nurse positions require additional experience, typically at least two years for certification or to enter a master’s or doctoral program.

    What role do infection control nurses play during a pandemic?

    During a pandemic, infectious disease nurse duties include communicating credibly about risk, rapidly identifying and evaluating new information and research findings, applying research as appropriate, and creating and improving new processes and approaches to infection control.

    How long is an infection control certification good for?

    An a-IPC certification is valid for three years and is not renewable; candidates are expected to get the CIC certification as the next step. CIC certification requires renewal every five years.

    What traits are important for infection control nurses?

    Infectious disease nurses must be good at processing information quickly, communicating with a variety of audiences, adapting to change, and using their authority to ensure that patients and staff understand and follow the appropriate procedures. Infection control nurses must understand and apply both clinical and behavioral sciences.

    Resources for Infection Control Nurses

    • Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology

      APICs membership, which is open to infection preventionists at any level, includes infection control nurses and nurse practitioners, physicians, public health professionals, medical researchers, and medical technologists. APIC offers professional development opportunities, continuing education, and a career center. They also conduct research and advocate for infection control.
    • Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology

      The Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology administers the CIC certification process and offers educational resources for candidates. It collaborates with APIC, Infection Prevention and Control Canada, and the International Federation of Infection Control on the certification program development.
    • Nursing Infection Control Education Network Project

      The Nursing Infection Control Education Network Project is a partnership among the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the American Nurses Association, the Centers for Disease Control, and other organizations to provide training to nurses on infection prevention. It hosts online education, conferences, and informational resources.
    • The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America

      SHEA performs research, provides educational resources, offers awards and scholarship programs, and promotes best practices in healthcare epidemiology and antibiotic stewardship. Full membership is open to those with an advanced degree or equivalent, while other professionals can join as associate members.

    Related Pages

    Reviewed by:

    Portrait of Nicole Galan, RN, MSN

    Nicole Galan, RN, MSN

    Nicole Galan is a registered nurse who earned a master’s degree in nursing education from Capella University and currently works as a full-time freelance writer. Throughout her nursing career, Galan worked in a general medical/surgical care unit and then in infertility care. She has also worked for over 13 years as a freelance writer specializing in consumer health sites and educational materials for nursing students.

    Galan is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners.

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