Vicki Brinsko Maddox, MSN-IPC, CIC, FAPIC

Location: Nashville, TN

Company/Organization: Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Title: Infection Prevention Systems Director

First Certified: May 1983

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

My 8th grade science project was to explore the micro world of pond water.  All through high school I was drawn to the invisible world of microbes.  While working my way through college, I worked as an assistant laboratory technician at the VA Medical Center in the Microbiology Laboratory.  While at the VA, I met a nurse, Audrey Hall, who was an Infection Control Nurse.  She was part nurse, part detective, part microbe hunter.  This was the perfect trifecta! She encouraged me to combine the best of both worlds…nursing and microbiology. So, I did.  I went into nursing wanting to be an infection control nurse.  

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

I always think shadowing is a great idea because it gives you a sneak peek of what you can expect.  I was so lucky to have started in the micro lab first.  I had a perfect mentor in Audrey Hall, the first Infection Control nurse for the Nashville VA.  You need a love for investigation, learning new things, and a knack for the ability to apply the science behind the guidelines.     

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

 Certification gives you the confidence to know what you know in order to do what you do.  The certification tells other people that…yes….you really do know what you are talking about.  It is not just about passing an exam.  It is really applying everything you have learned and continue to learn in the process.

4. How has being a CIC® helped you navigate the current COVID-19 climate?  

Certification paves the path for exploring by researching subjects that you may not be familiar with and the guidance to ask the right questions to get to the answers you need.  COVID-19 is one of those experiences that people talk about for a while.  Unfortunately, there will be another virus, bacteria, or fungus to take its place causing havoc and a pandemic.  Certification gives the IP the foundation for the ability to wax and wane with the turbulence caused by crazy pandemics and the wisdom to know how to navigate the choppy waters.

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

I used an in-person study course (one of the very first of its kind because I took the very first certification exam back in 1983).  There were study guides that I used, and I developed my own flash cards to test my own knowledge (back then in 1983….they did not have all of the wonderful aids APIC, and others offer). There are books, flash cards, study guides, webinars and much more.  Use all of these tools to your advantage. 

6. What advice would you give someone pursuing certification?

I believe in certification and that it is the very best achievement to aim for in your career. It proves to yourself and to others including facility leadership that you are indeed a subject matter expert.

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

 I read the infection prevention journals, I am active in my local APIC chapter, and I attend as many webinars as possible that my schedule allows me to attend.

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

Certification has opened doors  allowing me to venture into public policy as I helped write infection prevention related legislation for Tennessee, opened the door to national committees like HICPAC, and gave me the courage to try out national APIC committees.  The combination of certification linked with an active participation in your local APIC chapter is a dynamic duo fostering self-reliance and comprehension of the ever-changing world of infection prevention.  Whether it is writing a piece of legislation on the back of a napkin or forging isolation guidelines in a committee room at the CDC, your certification will be the evidence that you know your stuff.