Infection Preventionist – A Day in the Life (Part Three)

Key Topics:

A Day in the Life of an Infection Preventionist

In this three-part series, ActivePure Medical's own infection preventionist (IP), Caitlin Stowe, interviews her peers as part of a larger discussion about this engaging and vital profession.

In Part One, Caitlin interviewed two IPs who work in healthcare environments—Regan Wagner, MPH and John Patrick Delano, MPH, CIC.

In Part Two, she interviewed two IPs who worked outside of healthcare environments—Mackenzie Weise, MPH, CIC and Holly J. Montejano, MS, CIC, CPHQ, VA-BC.

Now Caitlin returns to the healthcare industry to speak with two seasoned professionals who discovered their passion for infection prevention almost by accident. As we'll see, infection prevention impacts everyone in healthcare, but this purpose-driven profession is still relatively new. We'll also provide tips for those looking to start their careers as an IP or those already in the healthcare industry who want to embrace more IP practices in their day-to-day.

Emily Leathers, MPH, CIC, CPHQ

Emily Leathers, MPH, CIC, CPHQ Emily Leathers, MPH, CIC, CPHQ

Emily Leathers, MPH, CIC, CPHQ is the Quality Manager at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida. She has been an IP for 13 years and has served in her current role for two years. Emily started exploring a career in infection prevention because of what—at first—seemed like misfortune. She relates:

“I've always had an innate desire to want to help people and work in the medical field. I applied to medical school but did not gain admission. I started exploring career paths and found that I was able to combine my passion for patient safety and natural curiosity with epidemiology and infection prevention.”
– Emily Leathers, MPH, CIC, CPHQ

Q&A with Emily Leathers, MPH, CIC, CPHQ

  • What is a typical day like?
    My day includes a lot of rounding in patient care areas, chart reviews for quality improvement opportunities, data management, and presentation, as well as performance improvement work. I absolutely love to share with staff and patients alike the knowledge I have to prevent infections and complications. My passion for patient safety is my biggest motivator.
  • What do you wish others knew about your job?
    I wish others knew how much influence their actions have on patient outcomes and that I am not just a “police officer”. My goal is to partner with the staff to improve outcomes.
  • How would your parents describe your job?
    When I first got my degree in epidemiology, my parents had no concept of what I had received education on. Quickly, with the onset of the H1N1 pandemic, my parents understood my role to be one of research and education on best practices to prevent infections and mortalities. When COVID-19 began, I received an email from my father on 3/11/2020 with a simple message: “I know you must be getting slammed – but I am proud of you that you are in a position with your knowledge and training to help many people.” I have that printed and posted in my office.
    “I am proud of you that you are in a position with your knowledge and training to help many people.”
    – note pinned above Emily's desk
  • What characteristic does someone need to be an IP?
    A dominant characteristic is resilience, followed by a hunger to want to learn more. The field of epidemiology/Infection Prevention naturally evolves as we learn more as scientists. It is important to continuously learn and implement new research as it becomes available.
  • What trend do you expect to see more of in the future for infection prevention and control?
    I expect to see a trend of more resources for infection prevention and control in all settings, including the acute care hospital, long-term facility, skilled nursing and rehab, behavioral health, and ambulatory care settings. I think COVID-19 showcased that the healthcare continuum was grossly underprepared for an infectious disease pandemic and elevated the need for education on infectious processes and personal protective equipment.

Benjamin D. Galvan, MLS(ASCP), CIC, CPH

Benjamin D. Galvan, MLS(ASCP), CIC, CPHBenjamin D. Galvan, MLS(ASCP), CIC, CPH

Benjamin D. Galvan, MLS(ASCP), CIC, CPH is the director of Infection Prevention for two HCA hospitals: HCA Florida South Tampa and HCA Florida West Tampa. Benjamin comes from a medical family, but he wasn't seeking infection prevention when he first entered healthcare. He started his career in a clinical microbiology lab, where he developed a strong foundational understanding of microorganisms and the role they play in certain types of infections. It was in the lab that he discovered infection prevention was a potential career path.

“After meeting the IP team at my hospital, and learning more about [what] IPs do, I knew it would be the profession for me. Infection prevention, control, and epidemiology is a profoundly important role in both healthcare and the general community, and I would encourage anyone who is interested in the role to pursue it!”
– Benjamin D. Galvan, MLS(ASCP), CIC, CPH

Benjamin has been an IP for over four years. In October 2022, he accepted a directorship. Benjamin shared his thoughts with us about this new leadership role:

“Having worked in the field for a few years at various facilities, I felt it was a fantastic opportunity to move into a leadership position so I could begin to better understand all the processes that must be implemented and maintained in order to keep a strong Infection Prevention program running that ensures quality patient care and meets all the regulatory requirements to maintain accreditation.”
– Benjamin D. Galvan, MLS(ASCP), CIC, CPH

Q&A with Benjamin D. Galvan, MLS(ASCP), CIC, CPH

  • What is a typical day like?
    The awesome thing about infection prevention is that, generally speaking, no day is the same. You don't know who is going to walk into your facility and you don't know what environmental factors are at play. You may have a patient walk in with tuberculosis, you may have an unexpected issue with your HVAC system, you may be preparing for a hurricane, or you may be at the center of a global pandemic.

    Typically, most days are spent identifying safety opportunities and risk-assessing our priorities to ensure we maintain a safe environment for our patients, visitors, and colleagues. This may involve evaluating the need for transmission-based precautions, investigating communicable disease exposures, performing surveillance for multi-drug-resistant organisms and other healthcare-associated infections, and providing education on identified opportunity trends and hospital-based needs assessments.
  • What is the best part about your job?
    The best part of infection prevention is the opportunity I have to collaborate with every department and type of caregiver, from the front line up to senior administration. Infection prevention is so multifaceted that it would be impossible for us to do the job alone, so we must leverage our healthcare partners and subject matter experts to help address opportunities and develop sustainable, action plans that will ultimately improve patient safety and health outcomes across the continuum of care.
  • What do you wish others knew about your job?
    First and foremost, I want others to know that this role even exists! I speak from personal experience in that I had no idea Infection Prevention was a job, let alone that it was a professional pathway I could take as a medical laboratory scientist.

    I think that as more people learn about the role, and the tremendous impact one can have within its space, more people will begin to seek IP out as a career.
  • What characteristic does someone need to be an IP?
    Successful IPs need to have several characteristics, but I think the most important are flexibility in your job, the ability to work on a team, and the desire to always be learning.

    IPs must be flexible as the day-to-day work of an IP is always shifting and requires us to be willing to flex our priorities. IPs must also be willing to work with multiple stakeholders and other healthcare workers as we can't do our job without buy-in from our healthcare colleagues.

    Lastly, the field of infection prevention and control is ever-evolving and changing, as highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and IPs must be open and willing to learn new things and implement new evidence-based best practices within their facilities.
  • What trend do you expect to see more of in the future for infection prevention and control?
    I expect that infection prevention, as a discipline, will continue to expand out of the hospital setting and into the public arena. What has resulted from the pandemic was an explosion of IPC functionality and necessity within many spaces including schools, businesses, restaurants, and so on.

    We've also identified a need to provide foundational education to many types of consumers on several important IPC topics like cleaning and disinfection, hand washing, food safety, respiratory etiquette, and vaccine science – things that keep the public safe whether we are in a hospital setting or not.

    Additionally, with APIC focusing on building an academic pathway to infection prevention, hopefully we will continue to see this momentum build a strong, diverse, and sustainable workforce in the field of infection prevention and control.
“Infection prevention is so multifaceted that it would be impossible for us to do the job alone, so we must leverage our healthcare partners and subject matter experts…”
– Benjamin D. Galvan, MLS(ASCP), CIC, CPH

Hiring an Infection Preventionist

At this point, you may be asking if your organization needs an infection preventionist (IP). As Benjamin mentioned above, this can be true even if you aren't a healthcare organization. Seventeen percent of IPs work in environments other than healthcare, and we expect that proportion to only grow. Source: https://www.zippia.com/infection-control-practitioner-jobs/demographics/ For instance, schools, penitentiaries, homeless shelter systems, hotels, restaurant chains, and healthcare equipment manufacturers all can benefit from having an IP on staff. If you haven't already, check out Part Two of our series where we highlight some non-healthcare IPs! Read Part Two.

Below are several resources for those looking to hire an infection preventionist.

What Do Infection Preventionists Make?

The Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) provides the following salary ranges for professionals in the field: Source: https://apic.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/IP-Fact-Sheet-FINAL.pdf.

  • Assistive Role: $50-60k/year
  • Routine Role: $65-125k/year
  • Administrative Role: $70-200k/year
  • Medical Degree: >$110k/year

It is vital to note that geographical location can impact each of these. For instance, according to Salary.com, an IP in New York City make $106-128k per year, while IPs in Kansas make $80-112k. Sources: https://www.salary.com/research/salary/alternate/infection-control-preventionist-salary/new-york-ny & https://www.salary.com/research/salary/recruiting/infection-preventionist-salary/ks In addition to geography, any company looking to budget for a preventionist should also factor in education and experience.

What Certifications Do Infection Preventionist Typically Hold?

Below is a non-comprehensive list of common credentials held by IPs.

APIC Certifications:

Other Certifications:

While 81% of IPs do not hold an advanced degree, Source (also used above): https://www.zippia.com/infection-control-practitioner-jobs/demographics/ some come from the ranks of Masters of Public Health (MPH) or Masters of Science (MS) graduates. Occasionally, IPs may also hold advanced medical degrees.

How Can My Organization Evaluate & Improve Infection Prevention?

Not every organization has the opportunity to hire an in-house infection preventionist. For those looking to expand their current team’s knowledge, we recommend:

  1. Consider funding the a-IPC entry-level certification process for any member of your staff ready to expand their existing role. This newly certified staff member can serve as the IP educator for other team members, as infection prevention really is everyone’s role.
  2. As an organizational decision-maker, you can begin to educate yourself in the basics of infection prevention. Below are some useful resources for getting started:
  3. All leadership should do their best to keep up with the latest news in infection prevention. We recommend checking out and subscribing to:
  4. Rely on your infection prevention partners. ActivePure Medical is dedicated to being your infection prevention partner. We are not just offering the latest technology to reduce infections in your space, but an ongoing partnership with education and resources for your team. We regularly provide our customers in need with infection prevention training and education.

If you're a medical provider and need guidance on infection prevention best practices, contact us today for a free evaluation and training.


Like this post? Share it with your friends!

Scroll to Top