APIC Tapped to Help Spread Infection Prevention Message

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology received a grant under the CDC’s Project Firstline program to bolster IP educational opportunities.

The infection preventionist (IP) profession, which faces some demographic and systemic challenges, may have just gotten a shot in the arm today thanks to Project Firstline. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched the $180 million Project Firstline last October in an attempt to teach basic infection prevention and control techniques to all health care providers. Now, it appears that the CDC wants the main organization that represents IPs—the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC)—to play a role in that effort.

APIC announced today in a press release that it has been chosen “as a subcontractor to conduct research and provide recommendations for development of infection control (IC) coursework for vocational programs, community colleges, and schools and programs of public health.” APIC received the contract from the National Network of Public Health Institutes (NNPHI), which is a public health network. The grant is $137,740, and it’s a cost reimbursement grant. APIC will file invoices for actual costs incurred, but $137,740 is the ceiling.

Devin Jopp, EdD, MS, APIC’s CEO, said in the press release that APIC’s excited to “combine APIC’s expertise in infection prevention and control with NNPHI’s strong focus on public health.” He adds that the effort complements APIC’s development of an academic pathway for IPs.

“Ensuring that our public health workforce has foundational knowledge on core infection control concepts could not be more important given what we are learning from the global pandemic and the need to protect our nation and our world from future infectious disease threats,” Jopp said.

Under the grant, APIC will look at how educational institutions can create curricula for teaching infection prevention and control, and actually provide coursework for certification programs at community colleges, vocational programs, and public health programs.

Laila Fox, MUP, MPH, NNPHI’s senior program manager, said that “working together with APIC, NNPHI will be able to better understand the current environment so we can formulate recommendations for how to best ensure these students have access to IC content. Now, more than ever, infection control is critical to delivering safe health care in both traditional and nontraditional health care settings and strengthening our public health system.”

As Infection Control Today® (ICT®) has reported, APIC has been searching for ways to re-energize the field. One of those has been through the development of a career pathway for IPs at hospitals and other health care institutions that would include novice, becoming proficient, proficient, and expert. The organization also developed its Infection Prevention Academic Pathway to assist colleges and universities that want to build an IP curriculum.

One health care institution that’s done both is the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Sarah Smathers, MPH, CIC, is CHOP’s system director for infection prevention and control. She told ICT® last October that she created a career pathway for IPs at CHOP that’s based on APIC’s career pathway.

In addition, Smathers “reached out to Drexel University and I asked if they would be interested in developing a certificate program and their master’s department at their Dornsife School of Public Health. And I worked with their team there to develop a curriculum…. And we have gotten some great feedback that people who have graduated from that program have gone on and been able to get positions in infection prevention and control, where typically somebody with my type of background it was very hard to get into the field.” Smathers has a master’s in public health and hospital and molecular epidemiology; most IPs have a nursing background.

There seems to be enough IP work to go around and IP gaps that need to be filled.

As Michael Bell, MD, the CDC’s deputy director of the division of healthcare quality, told ICT® in a Q&A when the Project Firstline was launched: “The challenge that infection control professionals face has grown tremendously. We’re asking these individuals to not only be experts, but also to take responsibility for such a wide range of activities ... and finding ways to help them accomplish what they’re doing across the whole population of health care personnel is the rationale behind Project Firstline.”