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Expanding Roles of Healthcare Epidemiology and Infection Control in Spite of Limited Resources and Compensation

  • Sharon B. Wright (a1), Belinda Ostrowsky (a2), Neil Fishman (a3), Valerie M. Deloney (a4), Leonard Mermel (a5) and Trish M. Perl (a6)...
Abstract
Objective.

Data on the resources and staff compensation of hospital epidemiology and infection control (HEIC) departments are limited and do not reflect current roles and responsibilities, including the public reporting of healthcare-associated infections. This study aimed to obtain information to assist HEIC professionals in negotiating resources.

Methods.

A 28-question electronic survey was sent via e-mail to all Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) members in October 2006 with the use of enterprise feedback management solution software. The survey responses were analyzed using Microsoft Excel.

Results.

Responses were received from 526 (42%) of 1,255 SHEA members. Of the respondents, 84% were doctors of medicine (MDs) or doctors of osteopathy (DOs), 6% were registered nurses, and 21% had a master of public health or master of science degree. Sixty-two percent were male (median age range, 50-59 years). Their practice locations varied across the United States and internationally. Two-thirds of respondents practiced in a hospital setting, and 63% were the primary or associate hospital epidemiologist. Although 91% provided HEIC services, only 65% were specifically compensated. In cases of antimicrobial management, patient safety, employee health, and emergency preparedness, 75%-80% of respondents provided expertise but were compensated in less than 25% of cases. Of the US-based MD and DO respondents, the median range of earnings was $151,000-$200,000, regardless of their region (respondents selected salary ranges instead of specifying their exact salaries). Staffing levels varied: the median number of physician full-time equivalents (FTEs) was 1.0 (range, 1-5); only about 25% of respondents had 3 or more infection control practitioner FTEs.

Conclusions.

Most professionals working in HEIC have had additional training and provide a wide, growing range of services. In general, only traditional HEIC work is compensated and at levels much less than the time dedicated to those services. Most HEIC departments are understaffed. These data are essential to advocate for needed funding and resources as the roles of HEIC departments expand.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Avenue, SL-435, Boston, MA 02215, (sbwright@bidmc.harvard.edu)
Linked references
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Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology
  • ISSN: 0899-823X
  • EISSN: 1559-6834
  • URL: /core/journals/infection-control-and-hospital-epidemiology
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