Since discovering the first case of SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 in early 2020, the virus has infected over 90 million people nationwide and claimed over one million lives.
While the lives of those impacted by COVID-19 will forever be changed, ensuring the safety and security of our future generations from experiencing a similar or worse disease outbreak has become a central focus across the healthcare continuum as well as all industries worldwide.
Today, infection preventionists (IPs) and epidemiologists are working across many non-traditional sectors as part of a renewed focus on individual and group health and safety.
With a Master of Science in Infection Prevention and Epidemiology through the University of Providence, students will learn crucial contextual knowledge, develop fluency in the core competencies of Infection prevention and epidemiology, assess current practices, and implement programs designed to improve patient health and safety.
Please continue reading below to understand infection prevention better, what they do and how their services and skills are now relevant outside traditional healthcare settings.
What Is an Infection Preventionist
An infection preventionist is someone who works to prevent infections. Infection preventionists are found in healthcare settings like hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. IPs are also found in outpatient facilities, like physical or mental health rehabilitation centers. Infection preventionists may also work outside traditional healthcare settings – such as schools, entertainment venues, sports teams, and more.
What Does an Infection Preventionists Do?
Infection preventionists work alongside healthcare workers and patients to prevent the spread of infectious diseases within healthcare settings. IPs work with nurses and practitioners and report to administrators and boards to track conditions and develop health safety plans to ultimately prevent the spread of infectious disease.
Why Are Infection Preventionists Important?
Disease prevention is essential in a hospital setting, especially for those most vulnerable to infection. Hospitals see patients with various health conditions, immunity levels, and age – all factors determining a patient’s ability to fight off a potential infection. It is the job of infection preventionists to keep all patients and healthcare workers safe during their stay.
Infection Preventionist Vs. Epidemiologist
It can be easy to confuse the role of infection preventionists and epidemiologists. While infection preventionists and epidemiologists have similar job functions, there is a difference in the scope of their work and the level of involvement within their industry. Epidemiologists focus on the bigger picture of disease identification and prevention, especially concerning overall public health. Epidemiologists in private and public sectors focus on broader disease mitigation and investigation. Infection preventionists, however, tend to work in specific industries or medically focused departments within healthcare with the sole focus of identifying and preventing disease within their defined sector.
The Emerging Fields for Infection Preventionists
Historically, infection preventionists found themselves working exclusively within the healthcare continuum. However, they are now taking their talents to industries outside of healthcare. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new focus on the health of those at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 has taken center stage in discussions among health officials. Today, infection preventionists are finding themselves working across a variety of reemerging industries in a post-pandemic world.
The entertainment industry was one of the hardest hit industries by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with concerts and amusement parks drawing large, close-quarter crowds, there is an increased risk of disease spread. Infection preventionists are helping mitigate the spread of diseases at these events by keeping track of the latest trends, implementing individual and group infection prevention strategies, and coordinating with event staff to guide and enforce healthy practices among patrons.
With millions of dollars and hours put into building a winning team, coaches and general managers want to ensure the safety of their team’s players, coaches, and staff. Infection preventionists help achieve this by working closely with players and teams to monitor diseases within the organization, ensure players are practicing good health safety, and staying on top of leading research and trends to ensure everyone’s safety at these events.
Ensuring the health and safety of our nation’s children is of central focus for public health officials as they continue to mitigate SARS CoV-2 transmission. As students return to the classroom, administrators, boards, and regents will work with infection preventionists to create a safe and healthy environment for students, faculty, and staff.
Infection Prevention at the University of Providence
The University of Providence’s Master of Science in Infection Prevention and Epidemiology program offers enhanced training in the core skills and competencies required to become an infection preventionist.
Students who graduate from this program will have the critical thinking and problem-solving competencies to meet the demands of this evolving field. Students graduate better prepared to act with advanced skills in infection prevention – prepared to enter a rapidly evolving field.
A Career Ready Program
Unlike other education or certificate programs focusing on public health or epidemiology, our program provides a refined skill set beyond the surface level. Infection preventionists and epidemiologists who receive their masters from UP go on to become change agents – knowledgeable in the skills of public health and epidemiology with a polished focus on infection prevention. Students will apply the core competencies through a capstone experience at a facility of interest. Integrated skill sets utilized:
– Evaluation of basic science, clinical and epidemiologic research in its application to infectious disease within the healthcare setting.
– Application of the basic principles of newer technologies, both conventional and novel, for identification, detection, and microbial typing and evaluate these methods in the context of an outbreak investigation.
– Conduction of outbreak investigations, develop strategies for risk mitigation and share the investigation findings within healthcare settings.
– Utilization of information gathered from an organizational risk assessment to design a surveillance plan and system for a healthcare facility.
– Evaluation of an infection prevention challenge and application of evidence-based research to facilitate and implement solutions.
Unique and Exciting Partnerships
With the University of Providences’ close affiliation to Providence St. Joseph Health, students are introduced to industry-leading professionals serving in their future roles. Our faculty work within the field of infection prevention, with some making notable contributions to the infection prevention industry. Our partnership with PSJH opens doors to exciting career opportunities across their healthcare network, with exciting career growth opportunities for current caregivers.
Explosive Job Growth Potential
Jobs in infection prevention and epidemiology are expected to grow significantly over the next ten years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 30 percent growth rate between 2020 and 2030 – one of the highest growth rates within the healthcare profession. While other epidemiology programs require students to obtain education and work experience as a nurse before enrollment, the University of Providence does not require prior education or experience in nursing. Our program is open to all who hold a bachelor’s degree and meet our graduate application requirements. Students with a degree in nursing, biology, public health, or healthcare administration are encouraged to apply.
The Bottom Line for Infection Prevention
Infection prevention and epidemiology is one of the fastest-growing fields in healthcare. While epidemiologists focus on disease mitigation and prevention through the broader lens of public health, infection preventionists work directly with hospitals and other organizations to prevent disease spread and ensure the safety of patients, workers, caregivers, and the general population. With a Master of Science in Infection Prevention and Epidemiology through the University of Providence, students will become change agents in the field of infection prevention – working towards creating a safer, healthier future for all.