iP Newbe

Infection preventionist: Name unifies diverse field

By Patti Grant, RN, BSN, MS, CIC
Infection Preventionist
Medical City Dallas Hospital, Dallas

(Editor's note: In this issue of IP Newbie, we feature a column for new professionals written by Patti Grant, an infection preventionist and editorial advisory board member of this publication. An IP since 1990, Grant was profiled in the debut issue of this supplement. She has a passion for mentoring that will add invaluable "in-the-trenches" insights for new practitioners in the field.)

Patti Grant
Patti Grant, RN, BSN, MS, CIC

One of the most exciting developments in our profession is the new designation of "infection preventionist" (IP). It pulls all of our entry disciplines of RN, LVN, MT, RT, MPH, PhD, etc., into one unified front that describes exactly what we do. So I've officially gone from an ICP to an IP, yet didn't feel the gradual change of purpose. Looking back, I was an IP all along. I didn't sit in my office eating bonbons waiting for something bad to happen, and then go out and try to control the infection crisis. The majority of time we're working within our facility culture, via formal and informal organizational and network structures, to prevent infection and not stagnant waiting for an outbreak. We are a proactive, not a reactive, group of professionals.

Whatever your reason for becoming an IP, more likely than not, you remember very clearly when and why you changed gears. Regardless of how we got started, there's one pearl of wisdom I wish I'd learned and accepted from the beginning: I will remain in a constant semihigh-pressure learning mode thus feeling the pangs of being a novice IP, no matter how many years I serve. This is a good thing if you keep it in perspective. You will never get bored, as our discipline changes constantly.

Expect to be the 'go-to person'

Since 2002 "health care-associated infection (HAI)" has become a household term and we're now in the glare of our legislatures and the media. At the end of the day, being a new IP can't help but be exciting as you secure your references, resources, and networking partners. As in the past, the IP of 2008 and beyond will remain in the limelight of his or her facility as the "go-to person" for all questions of biological hazard-, epidemiologic-, and data management-driven challenges. The difference you will experience as routine as a new IP is that the general public are starting to know who we are. This recognition will help IPs secure the resources needed in our patient safety effort to prevent infections and untoward health care events. In many respects, I envy the environment you will be trained in, as you will accept as commonplace the challenges this new recognition brings.

This column is a great opportunity for sharing all the excellent mentoring that has been given me since 1990, for I am the product of IPs willing to share their knowledge and time. It is our responsibility to give back to others so we remain strong and purposeful in our efforts to prevent infection. Without being a fundamentals training section, in future months, this supplement can explore challenges and ways the new IP can maneuver within the system and lessen the stress involved with this challenging learning curve.

For now,I'd like to offer to share my list of favorite bookmarks on the internet and the list serves that are free and make my job easier. The response might take awhile, yet go ahead and send an e-mail to patti.grant@hcahealthcare.com and ask for one or both of these lists. Also, call at least two other IPs you know and ask for their list(s), and you'll quickly have a wealth of resources to surf the web and have specific places to go the next time that question is asked. For that question will not be answered without your expertise and ability to share the knowledge of an IP.