• 04 October 2021
  • 12 min read

What Is An Infection Prevention and Control Nurse?

  • Josephine Amoah
    Infection Prevention and Control Nurse Specialist
    • Mat Martin
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Tiffany Allen
    • Richard Gill
  • 0
  • 731
“As an IPC Nurse, I am proud of the work that myself and my colleagues have been doing and continue to do in preventing and controlling the spread of the covid-19 virus, and other infections such as Norovirus, MRSA and C.diff etc.”

Josephine talks us through what an infection prevention and control Nurse does and explains why they are so important.

Topics covered in this article

Introduction

What Is An Infection Prevention And Control (IPC) Nurse?

What Are The Main Duties Of An Infection Prevention And Control Nurse?

How Does An Infection Prevention And Control Nurse Work?

Why Is An Infection Prevention And Control Nurse Important?

What Kind Of Symptoms Does An Infection Prevention And Control Nurse Treat?

Which Other Healthcare Staff Are Involved In The Care Of Someone Being Treated By An Infection Prevention And Control Nurse?

Where Does An Infection Prevention and Control Nurse Fit In The Process Of Patient Care?

What Are The Kinds Of Different Settings And Places Of Practice An Infection Prevention And Control Nurse Work In?

What Are The Typical Infection Prevention And Control Nurse Jobs In The NHS?

Are There Any Infection Prevention And Control Nurse Jobs In The Private Sector That Are Unavailable In The NHS?

What Are The Career Opportunities In An Infection Prevention And Control Nurse?

Brief Outline Of A Day In The Life Of An Infection Prevention And Control Nurse

Conclusion

Introduction

Infection Prevention and Control has never mattered as much as it has in the last 18 months or so of the covid-19 pandemic:

Organisations, including healthcare organisations and the public got to realise the importance of IPC and IPC Nurses/ practitioners, in the prevention and control of infections.

It’s worth bearing in mind that IPC Nurses have been around for years, even before covid-19, providing the IPC services to help protect staff, patients, and the public.

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What Is An Infection Prevention And Control (IPC) Nurse?

An IPC Nurse is a Nurse who possesses expert knowledge of IPC and provides specialist support with the provision of IPC services in any Healthcare organisation.

The basic role of the IPC Nurse is to ensure that Healthcare Acquired Infections (HCAIs) are prevented and where unable to prevent infections, control measures are put in place to stop or minimise the spread of infections.

What Are The Main Duties Of An Infection Prevention And Control Nurse?

The main duties of an IPC nurse vary, depending on the organisations that they work in; the role of an IPC Nurse in an acute NHS Trust will differ from that of an IPC Nurse in the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

However, the role of the IPC Nurse is divided into 4 parts: Surveillance and analysing of data; educating and training of healthcare staff and patients; managing outbreaks and developing Action Plans to manage outbreaks; Creating, Implementing, and evaluating of IPC guidance and policies.

How Does An Infection Prevention And Control Nurse Work?

Most IPC Nurses who work in Community Hospitals, NHS Trusts and CCGs work in teams. In the private sector, most IPC Nurses work on their own, with support from the Director of IPC (DIPC), Consultant Microbiologists and IPC Link Champions when needed.

IPC nurses usually work Monday to Friday, with varying start and end times; usually, there aren’t any IPC services in the evening and very limited service in some cases, over the weekend/ bank holidays.

Why Is An Infection Prevention And Control Nurse Important?

IPC Nurses are important as they provide leadership and specialist advice on all things IPC to healthcare and social care organisations.

They ensure that the IPC services provided are evidence-based, timely, safe, adequate, and effective by providing specialist knowledge, expert advice and support to the Nursing and medical staff and other employees of the organisation.

This helps to stop or minimise the risk of infections to all patients, staff, and visitors, thereby preventing or reducing harm that occurs to patients, staff, and visitors.

What Kind Of Symptoms Does An Infection Prevention And Control Nurse Treat?

IPC Nurses do not treat patients directly, but they work collaboratively with nurses, Microbiologists, patients’ Consultants, and medical and surgical teams to ensure that patients with infections are prescribed the right treatment including antimicrobial therapy.

Typically, once an IPC Nurse is informed that a patient has an infection (usually by a nurse on the ward/department or after reviewing microbiologist’s report) they contact the department where they patient is being cared for and inform the team about the infection; the type of infection it is and the type of care that the patients will need following the infection.

Which Other Healthcare Staff Are Involved In The Care Of Someone Being Treated By An Infection Prevention And Control Nurse?

IPC Nurses work with members of the Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) including Specialist Doctors, Nurses, care assistants, Consultant Microbiologists, Pharmacists, Housekeeping staff, IPC Link Champions, Maintenance and Facilities staff, Wate management, Water Safety Specialist, Public Health England, Care Home Managers, Local Authorities and Care Associations, NHS England/Improvement, Care Quality Commissioner (CQC) and Directors of Nursing who are usually the Director of Infection Prevention and Control.

Where Does An Infection Prevention and Control Nurse Fit In The Process Of Patient Care?

IPC Nurses do not look after patients directly, but they ensure that good IPC processes, guidance, policies, and procedures are in place to prevent infections and control infections where it is impossible to prevent them.

They also provide advice and directions to care staff when there is a patient with infection or when there is a potential for an outbreak of infection to occur. IPC Nurses educate and train staff on the dos and don’ts of IPC, to ensure that patients and staff do not suffer any harm.

They collaborate with IPC Link Practitioners/Champions to undertake IPC audits like sharps audits, environmental audit, mattress audits and hand hygiene audits.

They also work with pharmacists to undertake antibiotics audits, where necessary to ensure that the right antimicrobials (antibiotics, antivirals etc) are prescribed for the right infections.

What Are The Kinds Of Different Settings And Places Of Practice An Infection Prevention And Control Nurse Work In?

IPC Nurses work in acute, community and private Hospitals, as well as Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

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You may also find IPC Nurses working with County Councils/ Local Authorities in the communities where they provide IPC services to Nursing and Residential Care Homes. Some IPC nurses work as IPC Nurse Consultants and provide IPC services to industries such as movie and film industry, manufacturing industry etc.

What Are The Typical Infection Prevention And Control Nurse Jobs In The NHS?

In the NHS, the IPC jobs available are usually at Band 5, Band 6, Band 7, and Band 8 levels. The Band 6, Band 7, and Band 8s are known as Specialist IPC Nurses as they would have usually undertaken IPC specialist post graduate degrees courses or standalone IPC modules.

In the IPC Team, there is usually someone in charge known as the Director of Infection Prevention and Control (DIPC).

The DIPC has the overall responsibility for the IPC services at the individual NHS Trust/ organisation.

Also, some organisations also have a Deputy Director of Infection Prevention and Control (DDIPC) who deputises for the DIPC in their absence.

Are There Any Infection Prevention And Control Nurse Jobs In The Private Sector That Are Unavailable In The NHS?

Mostly the IPC jobs that are available in the private sector are also available in the NHS.

The only IPC jobs I am aware of which are unavailable in the NHS are IPC roles in the movie and entertainment sectors.

These IPC roles became available due to the covid-19 pandemic.

In these roles, IPC Nurse Consultants provide IPC advice on movie sets in regard to social distancing, wearing of appropriate PPE, isolation advice and any other IPC advice or service as needed.

What Are The Career Opportunities In An Infection Prevention And Control Nurse?

Once you decide to become an IPC Nurse, the career options available to you are endless.

Depending on what your prior qualifications and experiences are, you may be able to attain a Band 6 or Band 7 position.

With more experience and further post graduate qualifications, there are opportunities for an IPC Nurse to become Specialist IPC Nurse (Band 6-7), Lead IPC Nurse (Band 7- 8A), Head of IPC (Band 8b and above), an Associate Director of IPC (ADIPC- Band 8c and above), Deputy Director of IPC (DDIPC- Band 8C and above), Director of IPC (DIPC- Band 8d and above), National IPC Lead at NHS England/ NHS Improvement (Band 8C and above) or Independent IPC Nurse Consultant.

Brief Outline Of A Day In The Life Of An Infection Prevention And Control Nurse

For IPC Nurses, no two days are the same; depending on where IPC Nurses work, their daily routines may differ.

For an IPC Nurse in an acute NHS Hospital, a typical day is outlined below; 08:00-09:00- Admin; replying to emails, replying to queries left on answering machines and answering other phone queries.

09:00-09:30- Attend bed management meeting.

At this meeting, patients who were admitted with infections the night before and patients who were identified as infectious are discussed.

IPC Nurses attend this meeting because they will get to know the number of patients in the hospital with infections as there may be the need to move patients around in the hospital

09:00-12:00: IPC Nurse visits the wards of patients who have been identified the night before as having infections.

Also for any patient who was admitted to the hospital the night before and has a history of Clostridium difficile (C.Diff) or Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), the IPC Nurses flag this up to the staff on the ward.

If these patients need to be tested again, for example MRSA patients

12:00- 13:00: Depending on the staff levels on that shift (i.e. If there is no IPC support worker), the IPC Nurse would undertake IPC audits on different wards, sometimes up to 4 or 5 wards.

These audits include Hand Hygiene, commodes, mattresses, PPE (face mask wearing of staff on the ward environment).

Staff who are found to be non-complaint with wearing face masks in patient areas, and those who are found to be non-complaint with Hand hygiene including Bare below the Elbow (BBE) are spoken to privately to educate them on the missed opportunities and the implications for cross-infection.

For commodes, mattresses or equipment which are found to be unclean or not fit for purpose, the staff on the ward are informed and advised on what they need to do about those issues identified.

13:30-15:00: Usually if there are any patients who have been identified as C.diff positive or patients who have acquired MRSA in hospital, a Post Infection Review (PIR) is required.

The IPC Nurse goes to the individual wards, and go through patients’ notes with a fine-toothed comb to find any information that could help in the investigation of these infections.

These may take several hours depending on the amount of PIRs to be reviewed as well as the amount of information available to be reviewed. Sometimes, the IPC Nurse may conclude that a particular case is too complex and needs a formal PIR meeting with required attendance from other members of the multi-disciplinary team, such as Microbiologist, patient’s consultant, ward pharmacist, ward manager/sister and senior IPC nurse/s.

15:00-16:00: The is the last hour of the day so this hour is dedicated to admin work such as documentations, inputting IPC audit results, sending, and replying to emails, answering telephone queries, discussions with microbiologist if needed, discussions with other members of the IPC team regarding findings and any learning for the day.

Conclusion

I hope you will all agree with me that without IPC Nurses/practitioners providing the necessary directions, advise, trainings/ education and resources during the pandemic, the consequence from the pandemic would have been worse.

As an IPC Nurse, I am proud of the work that myself and my colleagues have been doing and continue to do in preventing and controlling the spread of the covid-19 virus, and other infections such as Norovirus, MRSA and C.diff etc.

There is currently a recruitment drive for Nurses and other healthcare workers to become IPC Nurses/ practitioners.

Most healthcare organisations have been given substantial fundings to help recruit, train and develop healthcare professionals who are interested in or qualified/experienced in IPC into these roles.

So, for anyone interested in IPC, this is the right time to pursue that dream and help make a difference.

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  • Josephine Amoah
    Infection Prevention and Control Nurse Specialist

About the author

  • Josephine Amoah
    Infection Prevention and Control Nurse Specialist

I am a UK RGN and Band 7 Infection Prevention and Control Nurse Specialist. I am also a Nurse Coach / Mentor and the Founder of Bina Consults and Bina Healthcare Ltd (Nursing Recruitment Agency).

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