2005 Salary Survey Results

Emerging national trends push ICPs to a crossroads

High job security, slow wage growth in a graying work force

A snapshot of the infection control profession at a critical time finds ICPs drawing a median salary in the $50,000 to $59,999 range while facing down everything from looming pandemic flu to consumer demands for infection control report cards.

The 2005 Hospital Infection Control survey of 328 ICPs found that 20% were making $40,000 to $49,999; 24% were paid $50,000 to $59,999; and 21% had salaries in the $60,000 to $69,999 range. On opposite ends of the spectrum, 6% were making $30,000 to $39,999; and 16% were in the $70,000 to $79,999 range. Seven percent drew a salary in the $80,000 to 89,999 range. The survey found 55% of respondents drew wage hikes in the 1% to 3% range over the previous year. Overall, 22% of respondents drew raises of 4% to 6%, and 4% of respondents were given a raise in the 7% to 10% range. A disappointed 17% reported no raises for the period.

Most survey respondents work in small to midsize hospitals, with the median response from facilities with 201-300 beds. The findings are consistent with previous HIC surveys, revealing that ICPs enjoy high job security as responsibilities expand but have relatively slow wage growth within a graying professional work force.

At a crossroads

Many signs suggest the field of infection control and health care epidemiology is at a crossroads. With infection rate reporting laws coming on the books, novel infections continuing to emerge, bioterrorism threats, and a national patient safety movement in full stride, it’s difficult to envision a time when infection control is going to appear more relevant and vital.

"Their responsibilities continue to grow," says Kathy L. Warye, executive director of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). "On the one hand, it is creating a more robust set of job responsibilities for the profession. On the other, if they don’t receive appropriate resources to address all of those responsibilities we are going to see a fragmentation of their time and ability to address the most fundamental things — the critical things in infection prevention and control."

Though the profession is slowly becoming more publicly understood and appreciated, infection control professionals still face historic problems tied to the field’s low health care profile and typically meager funding because it is not revenue producing.

"If you look at the drivers that are occurring now, I can’t imagine a future wherein hospitals would reduce their infection control and prevention resources," Warye says. "The question is whether they will be increased. We think that they will be, and potentially the [ICP] position will be elevated as well. All of [the trends] bode well for the elevation of this profession and practice of infection prevention and control in the health care setting."

One trend that may revolutionize the field is the adoption of state laws requiring public disclosure of infection rates. Laws have passed in six states (Pennsylvania, Illinois, Florida, Missouri, Nevada and New York) and more than 30 others are considering them. APIC is working with other national quality groups to lay the groundwork for a single national standard for infection control report cards.

"When this data becomes available to the public, we think it is going to change to some extent how health care administrators view infection prevention and control," Warye says. "What was once strictly an internal issue is now going to be a very public external issue."

Driven by consumer advocacy groups, the report cards will be used as a quality indicator for perspective patients. That should get the attention of administrators because patients may vote with their feet and seek health care elsewhere. Enhanced funding and support for infection control programs could be the result.

"Administrators are going to view this as a business issue — which they never have in the past — and as a public relations issue," she says. "That could be very productive if the profession knows how to leverage that development in the [health care] environment."

Taking care of business

Regarding the business case for infection control, studies and research in the field are increasingly demonstrating prevention literally pays. "I think the economic argument is a very powerful one," Warye says. "We can never ignore that this is truly an issue of patient safety and human suffering first, but we need to make the economic argument in order to effectively resource these departments.

As the enormous costs of health care associated infections (HAIs) become increasingly clear, investing in prevention programs appears to be a no-brainer. Again, however, ICPs have to fight entrenched perceptions that their programs are not revenue producing.

"We are finally beginning to see some very strong data coming out of hospitals about the economics of HAIs," Wayre says. "We are seeing health care institutions conducting very sound down to the cotton balls’ research in terms of all the collateral costs of health care associated infections. The evidence that we are seeing is that [HAIs] are costing millions of dollars in unreimbursed expense. As CEOs see more of this economic data I believe they are going to view infection prevention and control as a business issue."

Such a perception shift at the executive level could translate to better program resources, wages, and benefits for ICPs. "We think this is going to be a positive shift for ICPs, but once again they are going to have some skill in translating this information into data that is specific to their institution," Warye says.

As the ICP role continues to evolve, APIC is undertaking a futures initiative program to envision the job skills needed by 2012. One challenge is the recruitment of a new generation of ICPs, as the median age range of those responding to the HIC survey was 51 to 55 years. Only 11% of respondents were age 40 and younger, suggesting a continuing trend wherein ICPs work in health care in other areas and then make a career move into infection control. As part of is 2012 futures initiative APIC is exploring ways to make infection control a defined career track for a younger work force.

"The average age of our membership is about 49," Warye says. "We view the aging of the profession as being a critical challenge to us — not only in terms of how to support the profession — but in terms of [APIC] moving forward as well. Everything we do rests on the foundation of knowledge and skills of our members."

One thought is an outreach effort for people pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in the traditional feeder fields for infection control such as nursing, microbiology, and public health. Currently, it appears a qualified ICP has no problem getting a job or for that matter, holding on to it.

"The question is how will hospitals recruit these people," Wayre says. "Will they appoint someone internally who has a background in nursing or microbiology or will we succeed in creating the awareness of infection prevention and control as a separate and distinct career? [That would] bring people in earlier in their careers into infection prevention and control. One of our goals is to create awareness of infection prevention as a separate and distinct career."

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