Shirley Shores, CIC

Location: Galveston, Texas

Company/Organization: UTMB

Title: Director of Operations Infection Control

First Certified: November 1983

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

I started my career in 1978 as the first IP in a community hospital. It sounded interesting-I had just completed a master's in microbiology and felt this was a good way to use what I had learned. I am retiring soon after 42 years in the field. It is ever-changing, never boring, and always something new to learn. And I feel we make a real difference in the lives of patients and employees. 

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

This is a rewarding profession, but you need to be comfortable knowing that your priorities and plans for the day can change quickly. You will have to commit to continually learning new things and applying that knowledge to keep patients and employees safe. How to get that first job: talk to an IP about their job, ask if there will be openings in your facility, and check the local APIC chapter for job openings. APIC members taught me so much of what I needed to know in those early days in the profession and they are always a source of support. 

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

In the early days, it set me apart as someone who was committed enough to my profession to achieve certification. I saw it as a mark of dedication to my profession and proof of competency. I have always encouraged everyone who works for me to certify and I am proud to say that all the IPs in my department are CICs. 

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

My initial exam was the first exam given, so there was no study guide. Studying with colleagues in my local chapter, reviewing APIC materials (now known as Principles and Practices).

5. What advice would you give someone pursuing certification?

Buy the certification guide and a subscription to APIC Principles and Practices. Assess where your knowledge is strongest and focus your study where you think you are weakest. Attend educational offerings from your local chapter, participate in online training from APIC and other organizations. Find a way to apply what you have learned so it is easier to remember (e.g. teach someone, write a policy, do a study). When you take the first test, read questions carefully. Answer those you know first, then go back and answer those that require a bit more thought. Finally, answer those that require the most thought. That way, you will answer all your questions and won't get stuck on one you find hard. 

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

Attend national conferences when I can, take advantage of as many online and in-person offerings as I can, scan journals and read those articles that are most helpful, look for information from other professions that can improve my leadership ability, communication skills, and understanding of how to effect change. 

7. Are you part of an APIC or IPAC Canada chapter?

Yes APIC and yes, I would highly recommend it. APIC is a purveyor of great educational opportunities and your local chapter will connect you with a wonderful group of knowledgeable people who are always willing to help.

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

Being certified gave me confidence to seek opportunities in management and has given me a competitive advantage. Surveyors tend to accept your competence if you are certified. 

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

The pandemic has caused many sleepless nights. We rely on science and guidelines, but as knowledge about the disease has changed, so have guidelines. We have had unexpected shortages, not just in PPE, but at times disinfectants, hand sanitizer, and clinical supplies. We have had to learn to adapt quickly and re-think how we provide a safe patient care and work environment. I have become acutely aware of the importance of culture and the difficulty of effecting cultural change. We adopted policies to keep staff as safe as possible at work and we promote safe practices at home, but we do have infected employees and we worry about them. We have been fortunate that we have had excellent testing capacity for some time, but even that has not been 100% effective in identifying cases. This is a very frustrating disease. On a positive note, I have seen extraordinary cooperation between various departments and parts of the university enterprise as well as with our local public health agencies.