Andrea Harper, MS, MLS, CIC, CPPS, CPHQ

Location: Meredith, NH

Company/Organization: Lakes Region General Healthcare

Title: Infection Control Manager

First Certified: May 2011

1. Why did you choose a career in infection prevention and control?

While working as the lead microbiologist in the lab I worked closely with the infection preventionist to provide data related to: blood culture contamination, influenza tracking, reportable communicable disease and other lab/infection prevention related information. When the infection prevention position opened up, I jumped at the chance to apply!

2. What advice would you give someone who is interested in an infection prevention and control career?

I strongly recommend spending time with an infection preventionist, job shadow, reading a few articles from AJIC or Infection Control Today, as well as reviewing information on the APIC website and CDC to get a basic understanding of the role.

3. What does being a CIC® mean to you?

I became CIC certified for a few reasons. To identify any knowledge gaps while I was learning to be an IP, validate my self-training, in other words to prove to myself and others that “I knew what I knew”.

4. What was the best studying method for you when preparing for the initial certification examination?

I used a variety of resources including CBIC study guide, APIC text, APIC books from the APIC Store. My hospital purchased some of them and others I borrowed from other IPs. I also took the on line APIC Infection Prevention certification Review Course.

5. What advice would you give someone pursuing certification?  

Set a date to take the exam and stick to a schedule of time to study and review materials (typically 3 months). After using the CBIC study guide and other resources, take the CBIC practice exam to determine the areas that you may be weakest and concentrate additional study on those sections.

6. How do you stay up-to-date on infection prevention and control practices?

Attend local and national APIC education sessions and webinars.

7. Are you part of an APIC or IPAC Canada chapter? If so, would you recommend it to others?

Yes, I am a member of APIC and the APIC New England local chapter.  I highly recommend being a member of APIC and being active in your local IP group or APIC chapter. I also recommend serving as an IP mentor, running for your board of director or volunteer on a committee. The experience and networking are priceless!

8. How has the CIC® helped you grow professionally and in your career?

With a lab background it is sometimes more challenging to obtain IP positions. Having a CIC certification often alleviates any concerns people may have regarding my knowledge of infection prevention. Most hospitals offer higher wage compensation with certification.

9. Are there any CIC® stories that keep you up at night? 

As a newbie IP, I walked out my office door (an old closet), which was located on a patient unit, to discover that the IT department had hired an outside company for an installation project. The work was taking place outside of an ICU patient room and an oncology patient room. They had just started and had already removed at least 5 ceiling tiles and had begun threading wires through the ceiling. No barrier precautions had been implemented. I halted the project and explained which barrier precautions were needed. The CNO and Facilities Director were not familiar with the ICRA tool and had never used it. It’s astonishing to me how many hospitals are not familiar with the ICRA construction documentation and processes. The newest edition of APIC’s Construction and Renovation Manual and vendor training at APIC national in Philadelphia are excellent resources which provide education to IPs and healthcare facilities so everyone is aware of the requirements needed to protect our patients. This can be related to the examination or a specific patient story that stands out.