ICPs Must Take Charge of Their Professional Development

March 1, 2003

ICPs Must Take Charge of Their Professional Development

By Kelly M. Pyrek

In the midst of a staffing shortage, healthcare facilities are trying torecruit and retain quality employees through traditional and unconventionalperks and benefits; however, many healthcare professionals are still scramblingto provide themselves with the education and training they need to keep theirskills current. Many healthcare workers are finding that they must fund theirprofessional 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 uponcontinued education in one's field of interest. Unfortunately, many healthcarefacilities fail to recognize this and those that do are often without thefinancial resources to support such endeavors, especially if travel, etc. isinvolved. It also has been my experience that some facilities fail to recognizethe 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 interestedin doing the minimum required by accrediting agencies, etc. In the end, theywind up with a mediocre program."

Nancy B. Bjerke, RN, MPH, CIC, a consultant with San Antonio, Texas-basedInfection Control Associates, agrees. She says the most urgent issue ICPs facein their quest for professional development is "dealing with fiscalrestraints and micromanaging supervisors/administration who denyfacility-supported revenue and/or time off to seek additional training for newinitiatives 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 andnational education sessions as possible, and take advantage of the internet andthe plethora of Web sites that are available relative to numerous infectioncontrol issues."

Bjerke advocates joining the local chapter of the Association ofProfessionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) in order to networkwith colleagues about specific issues or concerns in infection control."Seek opportunities to learn, whether it be through the Internet, seminarsor by reading the literature. We each learn in different ways and retain contentaccordingly."

Patricia S. Grant, RN, BSN, MS, CIC, director of infection control for RHDMemorial Medical Center and Trinity Medical Center in Dallas, says it isessential for ICPs to keep up with city, county and state regulations, mandatesfrom the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), guidelines fromthe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and processes dictated bythe Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).

"This is a tight rope act we pull off; however, it is gettingincreasingly difficult because you cannot satisfy one while ignoring the otherand/or causing conflicts of compliance issues," Grant says. In order toenhance their skills and grow as clinicians, Grant advocates that ICPs"continue to go to conferences and network, make yourself publish to sharewhat you have learned, and maintain your CIC status."

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