Infectious disease nurses are clinical specialists who work in community health centers to monitor and prevent infectious diseases. This is done through a combination of education, policy-making, research, and administrative roles, as well as more traditional hands-on nursing.
Today, infectious diseases are much less prevalent than they have been in the past few centuries, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t an issue that threatens the entire country. Bio-terrorism and mass-scale diseases are always a concern for top level government officials. Some diseases, like HIV/AIDS, aren’t curable, while others, like Tuberculosis, are easily transmitted and can spread quickly. Still others, like Pertussis, have been controlled in the past through immunizations, but with more and more parents opting out of immunization, the diseases are making a comeback in a big and frightening way.
Where Do Infectious Disease Nurses Work?
Most nurses in this field work in hospitals and community or government health service organizations. Unlike many forms of nursing, which require round-the-clock care, many infectious disease nurses work more traditional hours to be available to the public for education and administration related to disease—a kind of desk job that requires both community work and nursing skills. In fact, some of the jobs require a strong head for statistics and analysis, both of which are required to help come up with projected plans and protocol for potential outbreaks.
However, that doesn’t mean that there is no direct patient care; on the contrary, some infectious disease nurses specialize in caring for the patients suffering from the diseases, whether that means providing in-home clinical care or working in a safe, sterile, and isolated environment to help the patient without contaminating others.
How Do I Become an Infectious Disease Nurse?
Most infectious disease nurses are advanced practice nurses, or nurse practitioners (NPs). This requires a Master’s-level nursing degree, which is offered on top of an existing 4-year Bachelor’s program. Beyond the traditional nursing courses, students focus much more heavily either on policy planning and implementation or on research and disease control. In this way, the field is open to both those with a leaning toward more science or toward more administration.
There is no national certification for this type of nursing, but in order to get a job at a health care organization, you will most likely need an NP or CNS (clinical nursing specialist) designation. However, all this education definitely pays off, and nurses with the CNS designation enjoy one of the highest nursing salaries at $66,000 to $90,000 per year.