- October 3, 2014
The role of infection preventionists has expanded as a result of the emergence of new diseases; changes in the healthcare delivery system, including use of new technologies and changes in reimbursement policies; social and political factors, such as the shortage of nurses; mandatory reporting of healthcare-associated infections; the need for emergency preparedness plans; and an increased focus on patient safety. The functions of an infection preventionist now include identification of infectious diseases; surveillance and epidemiological investigation; prevention and control of the transmission of disease; and program management, communication, research, and education. Infection preventionists also use their epidemiological skills to monitor and prevent noninfectious adverse outcomes related to patient safety. Recommended staffing levels may be outdated, necessitating the need for research on the appropriate staffing levels for infection prevention and control programs in the changing healthcare system. As the U.S. healthcare system continues to evolve, infection preventionists have an opportunity to participate in and lead interdisciplinary teams aimed at improving safety and quality of patient care efficiently by implementing evidence-based clinical practices.