Credentialing, diversity, and professional recognition - Foundations for an Australian infection control career path

Cathryn L. Murphy*, M. L. McLaws

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Background: There are no regulatory, legislative, or professional criteria stipulating minimum qualifications or experience that a health care worker must meet to be capable of coordinating an Australian infection control (IC) program. Measurement of IC competence is important to protect the public and for the ongoing credibility and growth of the profession. Method: Our study group was all 1078 nonmedical and nonindustry members of the Australian Infection Control Association in 1996. The survey examined perceived level of proficiency, level of education, and experience in health care and infection control. Almost three quarters (65%) of the members responded, and almost all (85%) of these respondents fulfilled the inclusion criterion of coordinating an IC program. Results: Experience in IC ranged from less than 2 years (33.6%) to more than 20 years (10.0%). The majority (65.0%) of infection control professionals (ICPs) had between 8 years and 12 years IC experience. The respective proportions of respondents' self-ranked levels of proficiency on a 5-point scale were novice (3.6%), advanced beginner (21.2%), competent (33.8%), proficient (34.7%), and expert (6.8%). Almost half (47%) of the novices agreed that a registered nursing (RN) qualification was required, whereas a majority (41%) of advanced beginners considered both an RN and a basic IC course (BASIC) were required. Competent ICPs agreed less often than the other levels about their requirements. However, 27% of competents identified a BASIC and an undergraduate degree (UG) as the minimum requirements for a competent ICE Proficient ICPs agreed that they required an RN, UG, BASIC, and a postbasic course in IC. Nearly all experts (80.0%) agreed that they required an RN, UG, BASIC, postbasic course, and a course in hospital epidemiology (EP). Two thirds of experts expected a master's degree as a requirement. Conclusion: The Australian IC profession is in an exciting period of development; however, the variation in ICP perception of the most appropriate qualifications and experience threatens the credibility and viability of the profession. This variation indicates the need for a clear-cut pathway that includes a system of credentialing, recognition of expertise, adoption of divergent roles, and improved networking. This pathway will lead to an increasingly credible and viable IC profession in Australia. Developing IC communities globally can benefit from the Australian experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-246
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Infection Control
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1999
Externally publishedYes


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