Tensions inherent in the evolving role of the infection preventionist

Laurie J. Conway, Victoria H. Raveis, Monika Pogorzelska-Maziarz, May Uchida, Patricia W. Stone, Elaine L. Larson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background The role of infection preventionists (IPs) is expanding in response to demands for quality and transparency in health care. Practice analyses and survey research have demonstrated that IPs spend a majority of their time on surveillance and are increasingly responsible for prevention activities and management; however, deeper qualitative aspects of the IP role have rarely been explored. Methods We conducted a qualitative content analysis of in-depth interviews with 19 IPs at hospitals throughout the United States to describe the current IP role, specifically the ways that IPs effect improvements and the facilitators and barriers they face. Results The narratives document that the IP role is evolving in response to recent changes in the health care landscape and reveal that this progression is associated with friction and uncertainty. Tensions inherent in the evolving role of the IP emerged from the interviews as 4 broad themes: (1) expanding responsibilities outstrip resources, (2) shifting role boundaries create uncertainty, (3) evolving mechanisms of influence involve trade-offs, and (4) the stress of constant change is compounded by chronic recurring challenges. Conclusion Advances in implementation science, data standardization, and training in leadership skills are needed to support IPs in their evolving role.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)959-964
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Infection Control
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • Infection control
  • Infection preventionist
  • Professional role
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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