Guest Author – Michelle Farber, RN, CIC
Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) 2012 President
If you asked healthcare professionals a decade ago to describe the role of the infection control practitioner, “hand washing cop” or “flu shot nurse” may have been the response. With changing reimbursement, quality measure incentives, and mandated reporting of healthcare-associated infections, a proactive, leadership role for these practitioners was essential. For this reason, APIC now uses the name infection preventionist (IP) to describe this shift in the professional role of these important healthcare professionals.
Until now, the profession lacked a standard definition of competency in the United States. There was no widely accepted way to assess IP knowledge or skills. Because IP skills are in high demand and the role is in transition, APIC developed a model of IP competency that could be applicable to all practice settings. The new APIC Competency Model for the Infection Preventionist appears in a white paper in the May issue of the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC), in a special topic issue, “The Road to 2020.” Represented as a circular diagram, with patient safety in the center, it outlines the skills needed and areas of competency that will be especially critical in the next three to five years.
APIC’s new model is meant to help IPs plan their career development in an effective, objective way. It stresses the importance of board certification in infection prevention as a bridge to career advancement. It provides a worthwhile tool for discussion among all institutional stakeholders and can be a practical resource in helping educate others about the overall aspects of the IP’s expanding role. Less experienced IPs can be directed into areas where future knowledge and skills will be most needed and valued. Attracting and retaining new people into the profession is critical because of the aging of senior IPs.
As we look down the long and winding road of our field, APIC is seeking input from partner organizations, consumers, and healthcare leaders: How can we market the value of board certification to institutions? What is the best way to link this model in job descriptions? How do we help strengthen IP practice and professional role development? How do we influence university educators to use the model?
Please give us your feedback. If you are an IP, use the model to assess your competency level. If you are attending the APIC Annual Conference in San Antonio, share your thoughts at the session devoted to this topic on June 5 at 3 pm. For those outside the profession, share the model with IP stakeholders and ask how this model could be used in your institution.
Although the road to a future without infection is a long one, APIC thanks the many individuals and organizations who have supported this project. We look forward to even greater collaboration as we move into the next phase of implementation.