Understanding Healthcare Associated Infections and the Need for Infection Control
Infections acquired in the healthcare setting affect more than two million Americans each year. Healthcare Associated Infections (HAI) are those infections associated with care in a hospital, nursing home, outpatient clinic or surgery center, or physician's office. Hospital acquired infections are called nosocomial infections by healthcare professionals. Although healthcare providers have made many strides in preventing and controlling nosocmial infections, they still cost billions of dollars.
Infection control as a profession began in the 1960s, when hospitals learned that many dollars and lives could be saved by appropriate safety measures overseen by a professional dedicated to infection prevention. Most Infection Control Practitioners (ICPs) are nurses or medical technologists with extensive training and experience in preventing infections in patients receiving healthcare. The majority work in hospitals, nursing homes, mental health or rehabilitation facilities, home care and outpatient clinics and centers.
Most healthcare facilities have an appointed Infection Control Chairman, a physician with special interest and knowledge in infection prevention. An Infection Control Committee usually governs the practices and policies of the Infection Control Department.
Organizations such as:the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. (APIC), the Society for Healthcare epidemiology of America (SHEA), and Certification Board of Infection Control, Inc. (CBIC) work very hard to educate and validate expertise by certification. Guidelines for practice are developed by APIC, SHEA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other agencies such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), provide regulations and guidelines for practice. A summary of all the information and knowledge an ICP must know to become certified is contained in the book "Certification Study Guide" (2003) published by APIC.