I'm a nurse who is interested in infectious disease and infection control. How could I make this into a career?
Infection control and principles of epidemiology are critical areas for all health professionals. Nurses in all practice settings are responsible for implementing up-to-date infection control principles on a daily basis. You don't mention your nursing education, but if you don't have a BSN, getting that degree will be important to the options I'm going to mention.
Getting your BSN
You can start by looking into online RN-BSN programs. BSN programs include community health content, and epidemiology is typically introduced as part of community health. Of course the field of epidemiology is a specialty in itself. Epidemiologists typically are trained in graduate programs in schools of public health and often work for local and state health departments, as well as national organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC.
5 nursing jobs in community health
1. Public health nurses (PHNs) at the staff level are important parts of community-based infectious disease control. Within health departments, PHNs may work in infectious disease clinics to evaluate and educate people with diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and foodborne illness like salmonella. PHNs also make home visits or visits to schools, workplaces, or institutions, to assist with tracking the source of disease.
2. School nurses are community health nurses who are on the front lines of monitoring infectious disease in the school age population. Teaching basic prevention such as good hand washing practice goes a long way towards limiting the spread of disease.
3. Within both health departments and private practices, the specialty of travel medicine and global health concerns is another specialty which is increasingly important as international travel becomes commonplace. Global health/travel medicine involves a current knowledge of epidemiological trends in disease, as well as the administration of appropriate vaccines and preventive medications to travelers.
4. Occupational health nurses are employed directly in the workplace to provide care to employees. As in schools, teaching preventive practices, advising regarding vaccines, and evaluating illness trends are important in preventing infectious diseases in the workplace. Workers in the food preparation, production and service industries are particularly important to keeping our food supply safe, so raising awareness of infection control in this group is critical.
5. In hospital and institutional settings, nurses with advanced training or graduate level degrees may be employed as infection control specialists. These nurses educate and consult with staff nurses to be sure that strict infection control procedures are in place, understood, and followed. These principles include hand washing, universal precautions for body fluids and blood bourne infections, and isolation practices for respiratory illnesses. Infection control policies are important also for accreditation of health care organizations. As part of a multidisciplinary team, infection control nurses evaluate patients with infectious disease problems, and implement care plans.
If you are interested in the community aspects of epidemiology and infectious disease, you might look into getting an MPH, or Master of Public Health. MSN degrees also can emphasize public health nursing majors or specialties in infection control/ infectious disease. A nurse with MSN preparation and nurse practitioner certification could work as an NP in an infectious disease practice. Nurses with advanced degrees can teach in nursing schools, administer infection control departments within institutions and do clinical research.