How to find the perfect match for your IC program

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After reading this article, you will be able to:

  • List important qualifications for a potential ICP
  • Write a job description for an ICP position at your facility

    It can be difficult to find the right fit when it comes to hiring a new ICP—make a wrong move and you may end up with a thorn in your side or find yourself dealing with an unpleasant termination.

    But taking some simple steps to identify the qualities that you are seeking in your new hire can help you both avoid making a mistake and find a suitable match for your department.

    An ICP’s job requires a number of different skills, from educating personnel to analyzing data. The -following are some qualities that you should look for in your new ICP and some tips to help you determine which of your candidates will be the best fit for your organization.

    People skills

    A large component of an ICP’s job involves interacting with other staff members, says Libby Chinnes, RN, BSN, CIC, a consultant for IC Solutions, LLC, in Mount Pleasant, SC.

    “This is not necessarily something you’ll find on a job description, but [people skills are] a critical quality for an ICP,” says Barbara A. Smith, RN, BSN, MPA, CIC, a nurse epidemiologist at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City.

    The ICP must not only effectively work with others, but must be able to interact with a range of different individuals, from people with no professional background to those with more training than they have, says Smith.

    “That’s not to say someone quiet and shy can’t do the job,” says Chinnes. You can train people on these skills, but whether it’s learned or ingrained, solid people skills are not something an ICP can do without.


    Often an ICP has to do a lot of learning on the job, and you need someone who will jump in and get going, says Chinnes. “The beauty of this position is that people who like to be challenged and learn never stop learning,” she says.


    Another key quality to look for among your job candidates is a reputation for getting the job done, says Chinnes. “We all procrastinate somewhat, but a chronic procrastinator may actually make more problems for your infection control program. Issues that are not ad-dressed with prompt follow-through may suddenly become major issues or lead to infectious outbreaks, citations, and/or fines from regulatory bodies.” Prioritize the issues, but persist in finding solutions, says Chinnes.


    A top ICP will always go the extra mile. Look for someone who has demonstrated this type of dedication in prior positions, says Chinnes. Some healthcare workers dissatisfied with weekend shifts and long hours may see the ICP position as a way to get into a Monday-through-Friday, nine-to-five position, says Chinnes. What they don’t see is that the ICP position has evolved over the years, and it requires a lot of work and a great deal of responsibility. “You have to be out on the units. You don’t just sit behind the computer and do infection control,” says Chinnes. “Someone who is just interested in doing a rote job is not the person for the position.”

    Attention to detail

    When it comes to infection control, it’s important to focus in on the details. Your top pick should be detail-driven, says Chinnes.

    Clinical competency

    Having someone who understands medical procedures and interventions can help your department succeed. For this reason, a nurse can be an asset to your department. “You want someone on your team with a nursing background,” says Smith. “That doesn’t mean that every person you hire should be a nurse.” People with a background in microbiology, lab work, public health, or patient safety can also be valuable additions to the team.

    Solid teaching skills

    Education is a huge component of an ICP’s job. Your new hire should be familiar with strategies to educate different groups of people of different ages from a host of educational backgrounds, says Smith.

    Ability to think independently

    A candidate whose prior position required him or her to follow a formulaic response to problems probably won’t be a good fit for the job. An ICP needs to be able to research a problem and make an independent decision based on the information he or she has gathered, says Smith. “You don’t want to hire someone who will come to you with every problem they encounter,” says Chinnes. The individual you hire should be able to figure things out for themselves when appropriate.

    Ability to work with other disciplines

    Although you want your ICP candidate to think independently, you will also need him or her to work collaboratively. ICPs need to work with a host of other departments and be able to share ideas and solutions to get the job done.

    Data collection and research skills

    As stated above, ICPs must often research and gather information to solve problems. A candidate needs to know where and how to find needed information. For this reason, candidates should possess strong research skills. And it’s not enough for the ICP to seek out and recommend best practices for various scenarios—he or she must also ensure proper follow-through.


    Although IC certification is not mandated, it’s best to hire someone with certification whenever possible, say Chinnes and Smith. Certification shows that the individual has demonstrated a commitment to IC and a willingness to learn, says Chinnes.

    A bachelor’s degree

    Smith believes that all candidates for the job should hold a Bachelor of Science degree. It is not as important what area of science the degree is in, she says.

    Formal training

    Although much of the ICP’s learning will come on the job, your candidate should also have formal training so he or she doesn’t learn things the wrong way, says Chinnes. Formal training is offered by professional organizations such as APIC.

    Selecting the right candidate

    So now that you’ve identified the traits that are most important to you, the next challenge will be figuring out which candidate comes closest to the mark. It can be difficult to ferret out an individual’s true personality and characteristics based on a résumé and interview.

    To get a true picture of the candidate’s potential, you should pose case scenarios to the individual to see how the person will respond. This will give you an idea of how the person’s thought processes work and how he or she might function in a real situation.

    You might also consider a tryout for the person, bringing him or her along with you on rounds.

    Also be certain to talk to references to get a better picture of the person’s personality beyond the résumé.

    Often entry-level ICPs will be hired from an internal pool of candidates. The advantages to an internal hiring is that you can see the person in action and get a good feel for his or her personality and the qualities that he or she will bring to the job.

    One final consideration when you are making your hiring decision is to focus on the department as a whole and not just on the individual, says Smith. If you don’t have a nurse in the department, you might want to seek a candidate with a nursing background. If you have two nurses, you might want to find someone from another background who can balance out the department, says Smith.

    On the job

    Defining the role of an ICP can be challenging—but St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center is up to the task. Turn to p. 4 of the PDF of this issue for a sample job description and performance appraisal for a nurse epidemiologist that you can adapt for your program.