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Advocating for Non-RNs in Infection Prevention – Chris Zirges

In a dynamic conversation for Voice for Infection Prevention, Chris Zirges DNP, ACSN-BC, CIC, FAPIC, the System Director of Infection Prevention at SSM Health, delved into her proactive endeavor to modernize and diversify the Infection Prevention roles within her regional domain, with host Jacob Hutcherson, the founder and CEO of Clutch Recruitment. Her narrative underscores the essence of evolving job structures to better reflect the diverse competencies that contribute to robust Infection Prevention programs.

Upon assuming her regional role, Zirges identified outdated job titles and inconsistent naming across the seven hospitals she oversaw. Seizing the timely release of an APIC position paper, she leveraged the new competency model to initiate a dialogue with the Vice President of HR, aiming to redefine the Infection Preventionist (IP) role within her organization.

Her efforts culminated in breaking the erstwhile mold that exclusively favored Registered Nurses (RNs) for higher-tiered IP roles. By highlighting the universal competencies essential for effective Infection Prevention, regardless of the professional background, Zirges paved the way for the inclusion of Master of Public Health (MPH) holders into the IP fold. Her initiative led to the hiring of the first MPH for an IP role within her region, marking a significant step towards embracing a wider spectrum of expertise.

As Zirges shared, the infusion of varied educational backgrounds enriched the team, with about a third of the members now holding an MPH, alongside others with a microbiology background. This eclectic mix of expertise, she noted, has not only sustained but enhanced the efficacy and dynamism of the Infection Prevention team.

Zirges’ dialogue with Hutcherson illuminates a progressive approach to harnessing diverse competencies in bolstering Infection Prevention efforts. Her proactive stance in modernizing job titles and structures reflects a forward-thinking leadership style, receptive to evolving industry standards and the enriching potential of diverse expertise.

Her narrative casts a spotlight on the invaluable asset of diversity in educational and professional backgrounds within Infection Prevention teams. It offers a compelling precedent for other healthcare leaders to evaluate and potentially broaden their recruitment paradigms, fostering a more inclusive and multidisciplinary approach to Infection Prevention and control.

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