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Frequently Asked Questions for the Healthcare Consumer


What is the role of an Infection Prevention and Control Professional (IP) to me as a healthcare consumer?

When communicable diseases are present, the potential for transmitting these diseases also exists. IP's work to minimize the spread of communicable diseases in the healthcare environment. Their work is crucial to maintaining and improving the quality of healthcare.

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What exactly does an Infection Prevention and Control Professional do?

They watch for unusual trends in infection rates and investigate the causes for these trends. If a significant cause is identified, the IP performs an investigation, starts control measures, distributes information and trains healthcare staff to prevent and control future infections. Additional research and written publication of this outbreak or event may also be done. In the case of a sentinel event, this may be only one occurrence of a serious disease-causing organism with an adverse outcome to the patient.

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What is the Certification Board for Infection Control & Epidemiology (CBIC) and what do they do?

CBIC is a voluntary board that administers a certification program for IP's. Certification is obtained by passing a 150-question proctored examination. This certification measures knowledge mastery of infection prevention, infection control and epidemiology. Certified CIC® professionals must maintain their certification through repeat examinations every five years.

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Is certification required before someone can become an Infection Prevention and Control Professional?

No, there are many qualified infection control professionals who have not pursued certification. An Infection Prevention and Control Professional must be working in the field of infection prevention and control prior to being eligible to sit for the certification examination.

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How can I tell whether or not an Infection Prevention and Control Professional is certified by CBIC?

Infection Prevention and Control Professionals who have passed the certification exam usually carry the CIC® designation after their name. Your healthcare provider will be able to tell you whether or not they have certified infection control professionals on their staff. CBIC also offers an online searchable database here.

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As a healthcare consumer, why should I care whether or not the Infection Prevention and Control Professionals working for my healthcare provider are certified?

Certification by CBIC protects the healthcare consumer by:

  1. Measuring current knowledge needed for Infection Prevention and Control Professionals
  2. Encouraging individual growth and study
  3. Formally recognizing those who fulfill the requirements for certification

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Administering this type of certification process places a large responsibility on CBIC. How does the board ensure that their certification process is valid?

A lengthy and involved process is used to develop, administer and analyze the certification exam. The actual examination questions are developed from actual work experiences and responsibilities of infection control professionals in the United States and Canada. CBIC committees and other professionals subject these questions to review prior to being accepted as test questions. In depth analysis are performed on all exams administered.

Additionally, CBIC adheres to numerous standards including: the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures and the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). CBIC is a charter member of the National Organization for Competency Assurance.

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What is a nosocomial infection?

The term nonsocomial infection originally meant "hospital acquired infection" and is no longer used by Infection Preventionists. It has been replaced by the term "healthcare-associated infection" or "HAI" to better reflect the different settings in which healthcare is currently provided.

"Healthcare-associated infections (HAI) are infections caused by a wide variety of common and unusual bacteria, fungi, and viruses during the course of receiving medical care" (CDC, 2011).

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What is epidemiology?

Epidemiology is the study of factors, which influence the occurrence, distribution, prevention, and control of disease, and other health related events.

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Where can I learn more about infection control, epidemiology and the quality of healthcare?

For more information on infection control and infection control professionals visit the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) Web site. The page on Infection Prevention and You provides useful information on how to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in your own home.

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