Becoming an infectious disease nurse

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    Good morning! I am a nursing student about to begin my ADN program here in southern Florida (September, please hurry!). I am very interested in the infectious disease speciality and have been researching how to best approach obtaining the proper experience and education required.

    I originally began my college career as a microbiology major with a focus in virology. Unfortuneatly, due to personal circumstances, I had to take some time away from school and focus on other things. Luckily in my hiatus I discovered a passion for nursing and am very excited to be back in school pursuing it. When I began exploring specialities, I came across infectious disease nursing, further feeding my excitment. Combining my [rather abnormal] passion for bacteria and viruses, with caring for and educating patients? Yes please!

    In posting this, I was hoping to talk with nurses actually in this field, or others pursuing it like myself. My questions are:

    Where are you employed (hospital, public health, etc.)?

    What does your day usually consist of?

    Are you more of an educator or on the floor?

    What kind of education and/or experience did your employer require?

    How did you go about getting into this field?

    Do you enjoy your job?

    Any other feedback would be lovely! Give me the good, the bad, the nasty, the happy, everything you can think of!
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    I’m employed at a public university hospital. As an Infection Preventionist, I am assigned to our hospital/university’s Healthcare Epidemiology department. There are 5 people (we are in the process of interviewing for our 6th IP) in my position and we are assigned units throughout our hospital system. We have many outpatient clinics throughout the state so there are some folks that are assigned to those clinics as well. We review ALL clinical laboratory results for all patients on our assigned units. We flag patients in EPIC & enter isolation orders as necessary & round on our departments to make sure staff is adhering to isolation precautions. We report any notifiable conditions to the state as required by law. We are also assigned different surgical procedures (colon, hip, knee surgeries, etc.) that we conduct surveillance for post-surgical infections. We report all infections as required to the National Health Safety Network. At our facility our department conducts weekly patient surveillance for MDROs in all our ICUs, swabbing nasal, oropharyngeal and perirectal areas. We isolate any colonized patients & montior for nosocomial conlonizations & staff compliance with isolation. We will also complete follow up cultures for those patients in isolation to see if the patient is no longer colonized or shedding the organism previously flagged for. We also do environmental surveillance cultures for all our ICUs. I’ve learned that there are not a lot of facilities that have the resources to do surveillance cultures. We are lucky to have our own laboratory with our own laboratory personnel. So, we do spend quite a bit of time on our units with both patients and staff educating & conducting surveillance. It is a good balance though. Since our department is more academically based we also conduct research on different infection control projects. Right now we are working on a Clostridium difficile infection project. We will also conduct exposures when those occasions arise.
    Our IPs are required to have a bachelor's degree either in nursing or in a science (micro, bigology, etc.). We all have laboratory/epidemiology/public health experience. I didn’t necessarily do anything special to get into this position. I had worked as our county’s TB program manager so, I had the epidemiological/public health experience they were looking for. It also helped that many of the units I was to be assigned were medicine units so that would be where TB patients would be admitted (we seem to have quite a few TB patients).
    I really love, love, love my job! Before the county I had worked as a cardiovascular nurse and had begun training to transfer to an ICU. So I was worried that I would be bored with public health/ infection control/prevention… I didn’t feel challenged or intellectually stimulated with TB, but I am certainly getting that now. I like the research and the focus on prevention and continuous improvement. The hours are a bonus… I get to wake up with and put my babies to sleep every day. I wouldn’t be able to do that if I was back on the floor.
    Good luck to you!!


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