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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Changing IP role creates job ‘tensions’: A fascinating look in the trenches

The changing role of infection preventionists is beset with “tensions” as the demand for data increases and IPs try to enlist other health care workers to achieve the broader aims of infection control and patient safety, a researcher reported recently in Fort Lauderdale at the 40th annual conference of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

The study included in-depth interviews with IPs, providing a fascinating look into the trenches at a time of transition for infection prevention. Adaptability and persistence are among the traits needed by IPs during this period of change, said Laurie Conway, RN, MPhil, CIC, PhD Student at Columbia University School of Nursing in New York City. “The IP narratives revealed that the IP role is indeed changing,” she said. “It is progressive in nature and like many changes it is associated with some friction and some uncertainty and what we called ‘tension.’”

Conway and colleagues interviewed 19 IPs at hospitals across the U.S. between October 2010 and February 2011.1 By design, the hospitals were sampled for maximum variation in size, geographic region, health care associated infection (HAI) rates, and degree of implementation of HAI prevention strategies. Tensions inherent in the evolving role of the IP emerged from the content analysis as four broad themes:

• expanding responsibilities outstrip resources

• evolving mechanisms of influence involve tradeoffs

• stress of constant change is compounded by chronic recurring challenges

• shifting role boundaries create uncertainty

Concerning the latter, one IP interviewed for the study said, “We’re used to being very good at making decisions…What we’re not as good at is getting everybody else’s opinions first.”

For the rest of this story see the August 2013 issue of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention


1. Conway LJ, Raveis V, Pogorzelska M, et al. Tensions Inherent in the Evolving Role of the Infection Preventionist: A Qualitative Descriptive Study. Presented at the 40th annual conference of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. Fort Lauderdale, FL: June 8-10, 2013.