What Does Being an ICP Mean to You?

With the holiday season just behind us, hopefully we have all had a chance to take stock of our lives and make resolutions for the new year, 2008. When I really sit down and count my blessings, I have to include stumbling into this role of the infection control practitioner (ICP). There has never been a dull moment since I started in a university setting almost 30 years ago as a “baby ICP.” I often wondered why one of my supervisors chose me as a potential candidate for this fairly new role in the hospital setting. I didn’t even like microbiology in college, I told her. She replied, “No problem...you’ll love this job before it’s over.” I did! I do! And it’s not over yet, I hope!

In the spirit of making a list (don’t we ICPs always have one with us even if we don’t get to anything on it that day?!) of what being an ICP means to me, I also decided to include what others may think it entails. Here goes...

Some staff think:

  • We always have the weekends and holidays off 
  • We are paper pushers 
  • We are OSHA regulators and enforcers 
  • We are nags!
  • We aren’t involved in patient care 
  • We only do bloodborne pathogen training and orientation 
  • We only go to committee meetings all day long 
  • We live for policies and procedures and new regulations and standards 
  • I think that being an ICP means:
  • Serving as the patient’s advocate as well as an advocate for the safety of healthcare workers 
  • Possessing a million and one ways to influence patient care every single day 
  • Desiring to find real time solutions for patient care concerns based on scientific evidence 
  • Reading constantly to stay abreast of the latest infection prevention and control information, standards, guidelines, and trends to truly be a valuable resource to healthcare workers and physicians 
  • Preparing and preparing and preparing and preparing before giving a staff in-service or lecture to the public or colleagues in the hopes of having the answers to all of their questions or the resources for referral 
  • Developing skills in diverse areas to use readily in teams and performance improvement efforts 
  • Facilitating change in healthcare 
  • Being persistent and determined to obtain a good outcome for patients and families 
  • Using data to make patient care decisions 
  • Teaching infection prevention and control at work, home, and in the community 
  • Striving and advocating for patient care that would be what you would want for your loved one 

Serving in the role of ICP has truly been a blessing for me in my career. I have never tired of trying to give patients the care they all so deserve. In so doing, I have been offered many opportunities such as setting up new programs for infection prevention and control in all healthcare settings, writing and speaking on infection control topics throughout the country, serving my professional organization, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), assisting industry partners with special projects and tasks, and even setting up my own consulting business for the past 10 years! Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought as a struggling ICP years ago that I would still experience such an adrenaline rush after being in this field for 30 years! As for my New Year’s resolutions, I would have to say that one of them is to pass on the passion for our role to others who are new or tired (yes, not every day is grand). As the spotlight is now shining brightly on ICPs, join me in using this chance to advance our profession and improve patient care. Oh, and don’t forget to wash your hands!

Happy New Year! 

Libby Chinnes, RN, BSN, CIC, is an independent infection control consultant with IC Solutions, LLC, based in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. She has more than 25 years of experience in infection prevention and control. She provides consultation to infection control programs in assessment, problem solving, and training in acute-care, long-term care, ambulatory care, home care, and long-term acute care. She also serves as a consultant to healthcare industries. Chinnes has served in many capacities for APIC, and is a frequent speaker at APIC’s ICE I course for new practitioners and APIC’s annual national conference. She is published in the field and has lectured extensively on infection prevention and control topics throughout the United States. For the second consecutive year, Chinnes is a speaker at the ICT Conference on Professional Development.