Make a Clean Start in Infection Control ; RECRUITMENT NURSING ++ There's a Lot More to the Constant Fight against Dirty Hospitals Than Just Washing Hands. by Caroline Roberts
Roberts, Caroline, The Independent (London, England)
The fight against rising levels of infection and antibiotic resistance in hospitals is now a priority for the NHS, and the infection-control nurse is on the front line. This is one example of the specialisms open to nurses in what is increasingly becoming a graduate career. And there's a lot more to the job than making sure medical staff wash their hands between seeing patients. "Infection control encompasses everything from clinical practice to catering and cleaning," says Judy Potter, the chair of the Infection Control Nurses Association. "It means you can have a high level of influence throughout the hospital."
Many nurses working in the area are acquiring the qualifications to match the responsibility. Ashley Flores, the senior infection- control nurse at Mayday Hospital Trust in Croydon, south London, has an MSc in the subject. "My job is to prevent as much infection as possible and keep what there is under control," she says. Training staff in hygiene procedures is an important part of the role. She also writes guidelines, monitors infection levels and conducts ward- rounds to ensure the correct precautions are in place. And then there's the varied consultancy role. "You might get a call from a ward with a case of TB or scabies asking for advice on how to stop it spreading," she says. "Or a department might be setting up a new operating theatre and need some input on ventilation."
The pace can be fast and you have to be able to adapt. "If there's an outbreak of norovirus, which causes sickness and diarrhoea, everything else in your diary goes out of the window for 10 days or more while you deal with it," she says.
Flores, who entered nursing via an accelerated course for graduates following her first degree in psychology, was attracted by the good career-structure and the level of autonomy.
"You feel you have status as an expert in your field," she says. The fact that it usually involves office hours rather than shift- work also means it's easier on family life and social life. But there are downsides. "You're often working with staff rather than with patients, and you can miss the satisfaction that comes from helping people on a more individual and personal level," she says. …