ICPs Must Take Charge of Their Professional Development
By Kelly M. Pyrek
In the midst of a staffing shortage, healthcare facilities are trying to recruit and retain quality employees through traditional and unconventional perks and benefits; however, many healthcare professionals are still scrambling to provide themselves with the education and training they need to keep their skills current. Many healthcare workers are finding that they must fund their professional development with their own wallets.
"I think that it all comes down to money," says Robert Sharbaugh, PhD, CIC, international director of infection control for Hill-Rom Company, Inc. in Charleston, S.C. "Professional development is highly dependent upon continued education in one's field of interest. Unfortunately, many healthcare facilities fail to recognize this and those that do are often without the financial resources to support such endeavors, especially if travel, etc. is involved. It also has been my experience that some facilities fail to recognize the true value, from the standpoint of both economics and quality patient care, of a top-notch infection control program. They are, sad to say, only interested in doing the minimum required by accrediting agencies, etc. In the end, they wind up with a mediocre program."
Nancy B. Bjerke, RN, MPH, CIC, a consultant with San Antonio, Texas-based Infection Control Associates, agrees. She says the most urgent issue ICPs face in their quest for professional development is "dealing with fiscal restraints and micromanaging supervisors/administration who deny facility-supported revenue and/or time off to seek additional training for new initiatives such as bioterrorism and patient safety programs."
To keep skills sharp, Sharbaugh suggests infection control practitioners (ICPs) "become certified in infection control, attend as many local, regional and national education sessions as possible, and take advantage of the internet and the plethora of Web sites that are available relative to numerous infection control issues."
Bjerke advocates joining the local chapter of the Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) in order to network with colleagues about specific issues or concerns in infection control. "Seek opportunities to learn, whether it be through the Internet, seminars or by reading the literature. We each learn in different ways and retain content accordingly."
Patricia S. Grant, RN, BSN, MS, CIC, director of infection control for RHD Memorial Medical Center and Trinity Medical Center in Dallas, says it is essential for ICPs to keep up with city, county and state regulations, mandates from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and processes dictated by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).
"This is a tight rope act we pull off; however, it is getting increasingly difficult because you cannot satisfy one while ignoring the other and/or causing conflicts of compliance issues," Grant says. In order to enhance their skills and grow as clinicians, Grant advocates that ICPs "continue to go to conferences and network, make yourself publish to share what you have learned, and maintain your CIC status."