Many patients in a hospital are vulnerable to infection, which can be spread from health care workers to patients and vice versa. Enter the infection control nurse, whose job is to monitor the system, track infections and prevent outbreaks of infectious disease. You can obtain a certificate of education in infection control nursing or a nationally recognized certification as an infection control nurse.
You’ll start your career in infection control nursing by becoming a registered nurse. You have three choices for your basic education: a diploma from a hospital-based school of nursing, an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Although a bachelor's is typically the most expensive and takes four years instead of two or three years, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that a bachelor's in nursing is more likely to improve your job prospects.
Although some nurses might be hired into infection control upon graduation, it’s much more likely that you will need to gain some experience before you can apply. General nursing experience -- often called floor nursing -- is valuable, as are critical care and emergency room nursing. A broad range of experience is helpful, as infection control nurses might monitor any area of the hospital. If you are familiar with the equipment, people and practices in each area, it can make your job easier and make you more effective.
While you’re getting that experience, take additional training in infection control. Courses are often available through colleges, universities and hospitals or health systems. Online training might be available in some cases. Some organizations offer free training if you live in the same state, while others charge a fee. At the completion of your training, you’ll receive a certificate of completion. This is not a nationally recognized certification, however, but evidence of basic training in infection control. The educational certificate might improve your chances of getting a position as an infection control nurse, however.
National certification in infection control is available from the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology. The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology offers training materials and local chapters might offer continuing education in the subject. The Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology notes that the exam is designed for nurses who have at least two years of experience in infection control. The fee for the exam was $350 in 2014. Nurses who are certified and have at least five years of experience can take the Self-Achievement Recertification Exam, which costs $325. Examinations are available at designated locations throughout the U.S. You must recertify every five years.