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How to Become an Infectious Disease Nurse Practitioner? (Answered by an NP)


Written By: Kasee Wiesen DNP, APRN, FNP-C

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses (RNs) who have completed their advanced degree in a specified program and passed a certification exam. The NP can work in various settings, and one specialty the NP may pursue is infectious disease. Have you wondered what is an infectious disease nurse practitioner? Infectious disease nurse practitioners have a passion and drive to prevent infectious disease through research and health policy. They also strive to deliver excellent care to patients with infectious diseases through assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.

Below, I will discuss how to become an infectious disease nurse practitioner and provide more information regarding their daily duties and skills needed to be successful.


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What Does An Infectious Disease Nurse Practitioner Do?


So, what does an infectious disease nurse practitioner do? The duties of an infectious disease nurse practitioner include diagnosing, treating, and managing infectious diseases. This includes chronic illnesses such as HIV, Lyme disease, or hepatitis C and acute illnesses such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) resistant to antibiotics or extensive MRSA infections. This is achieved by ordering labs and diagnostic imaging, interpreting the results, and initiating treatment based on the disease process. Infectious disease NPs are also responsible for re-evaluating the patient once treatment is initiated to ensure improvement or stability of the illness. Depending on their job, they can deliver care in inpatient and outpatient settings.

Besides being involved in direct patient care, the infectious disease NP can also work in research, health policy, and educators. This includes surveillance and epidemiologic investigation as well as determining how to prevent and control the transmission of the infectious process/disease. Many of the infectious disease NPs engaged in research currently focus their efforts on the Covid-19 pandemic. Their research is also used to develop and revise the health policies related to Covid-19. This includes recommendations for testing, the Covid-19 vaccine, and treatment of Covid-19.

Lastly, some infectious disease nurse practitioners also ensure patients are medically prepared before traveling abroad. This includes ordering necessary vaccines based on the country where the patient is traveling and ordering any prophylactic antibiotics that may be needed when traveling.


What Skills And Abilities Are Needed To Work As An Infectious Disease NP?


To become an infectious disease nurse practitioner there are a variety of skills and abilities needed. The infectious disease nurse practitioner skills include clinical and non-clinical skills. Below I list a few skills from each category that an infectious disease NP needs to possess.

Clinical

Assessment Skills:

This clinical skill goes along with the skill listed below. Knowing how to assess a patient appropriately is vital, and this assessment will be used to diagnose and treat the patient. The evaluation includes subjective and objective data, which are essential to diagnosing and treating the patient.

Interpret lab results and initiate appropriate treatment:

Knowing the appropriate lab and diagnostic tests to order and analyze the results is a crucial component of becoming an infectious disease NP. You do not want to order inappropriate tests that may lead to unnecessary costs for the patient, and you must interpret the results to ensure appropriate treatment is initiated.

Knowledge of epidemiology:

Epidemiology is a key component of infectious disease, and therefore infectious disease NPs need to have a solid understanding of epidemiology. Epidemiology is ultimately the study of infectious diseases (both viral and bacterial) and their impact on the public and overall health. While not all infectious NPs are directly involved in research, it is important to understand the definition of epidemiology, its impact on public health, and how to interpret and apply research as it is presented.

Non-Clinical

Work well with a team:

Teamwork is vital in delivering care to an infectious disease patient. Most patients with an infectious process also have other underlying comorbidities that need to be considered. Therefore, teamwork with their primary care provider, hospitalist, or other specialties is key to ensuring the patient receives appropriate and safe care. Teamwork also involves other healthcare providers such as nurses, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, and occupational therapists. These are the people delivering direct care to the patient and informing the healthcare provider on the patient's status or overall response to the treatment plan.

Strong communication skills:

This skill goes along with teamwork. To effectively work as a team, communication must be a key component. Communication among the healthcare team is essential to ensure the patient receives the appropriate care. The healthcare team can comprise the infectious disease APRN, hospitalist or primary care provider, other specialties involved in the patient care, and pharmacist. It also includes the nurse, physical and occupational therapist, certified nursing assistant, and respiratory therapist, as they provide direct care to the patient. They are also the ones who will update the provider on the patient's progress or response to treatment. Communication must also be strong between the provider, patient, and their family members to ensure understanding of the treatment plan.


Where Do Infectious Disease Nurse Practitioners Work?


Infectious disease NPs work in both the outpatient and inpatient setting. The infectious disease NP can work on all floors in the inpatient setting, including medical-surgical, telemetry, and intensive care units. The infectious disease NP may work in private practice or practice associated with a larger organization in the outpatient setting. In smaller communities, the infectious disease NP may work in both the inpatient and outpatient settings, based on the patient's needs and organization. Regardless of the setting the infectious disease NP works, they work alongside a team of other providers to ensure the patient receives the appropriate care based on their disease process.

There is one other setting the infectious disease NP may work in: research. Many NPs who work in research still work at the bedside part-time or per diem. As a researcher, you typically work for a teaching hospital or large organization researching better treatment plans for current infectious processes or researching new infectious diseases, including their treatments.


What Is The Typical Work Schedule For An Infectious Disease NP?


The typical work schedule for an infectious disease NP depends on the setting worked. Infectious disease NPs who work in the outpatient setting typically work daytime hours at 8 am or 9 am to 5 pm. This is entirely variable in the outpatient setting you work. Some clinics may offer Saturday morning clinics, requiring the NP to work a specified number of Saturdays throughout the year. There is also the possibility the infectious disease NP may have on-call or work holidays.

The NP working in the inpatient setting will also typically work daytime hours. However, their day may start earlier, between 7 am or 8 am, and end around 4 pm or 5 pm. They do not work evenings in most settings but are more likely to work holidays and weekends. Again, this depends on the organization/hospital where you are employed.


What Is The Difference Between Infectious Disease NP And Infectious Disease Nurse?


There are differences between the infectious disease NP and infectious disease RN. Most, if not all of these stem from the differences in their scope of practice and license. The role of the infectious disease NP is to assess, diagnose, treat and evaluate the patient. This is achieved through ordering the appropriate diagnostic tests and initiating the treatment based on those results. The NP will evaluate the patient to determine the effectiveness of the treatment plan. The infectious disease NP will also recommend appropriate follow-up based on the patient's disease process. This could mean daily, weekly, monthly, or even annually.

The infectious disease RN will work directly alongside the infectious disease NP to deliver care to the patient. The setting in which the RN works directly impacts their role in providing care to the patient. The RN working in the inpatient setting will check routine vital signs, complete regular assessments, and update the providers on the patient's well-being. They will also directly administer the appropriate treatment as prescribed by the provider. The outpatient RN performs the same roles but does not perform frequent vital signs or assessments. RNs working in both settings coordinate care amongst providers and ensure the patient has appropriate tests completed. They also communicate routinely with the patient and their family to ensure they understand tests results, treatment plans, side effects of medications, and answer questions.


Pros Of Becoming An Infectious Disease Nurse Practitioner


There are a couple of pros of becoming an infectious disease nurse practitioner. First, you can care for patients of all ages. Infections affect people of all ages, leading to the need for infectious NPs to deliver care to neonates, pediatrics, adults, and geriatrics. There is also a wide variety of settings the infectious disease NP can work, including inpatient, outpatient, and research settings. The hours are also a pro as the infectious disease NP does not typically work nights but may have an occasional weekend or have to be on-call.


Cons Of Becoming An Infectious Disease Nurse Practitioner


I do not believe there are cons to becoming an infectious disease nurse practitioner but instead points to consider. The most significant point to consider is that working in infectious disease is very specialized. You are either delivering care to patients with or suspected of an infectious disease or working on researching how to better treat specific infectious diseases.


How Long Does It Take To Become An Infectious Disease Nurse Practitioner?


It takes several years to become an infectious disease nurse practitioner. On average, it takes 6 to 8 years and does not include the recommended years of experience as an RN or completing a terminal nursing degree.

You must first complete your BSN, which typically takes four years. Next, you apply for graduate school. Most MSN programs take approximately 2 to 4 years to complete depending on the status you attend and if your program offers classes in the summer. If you choose, another 1 to 2 years of school will be needed to complete a terminal degree such as your DNP.


How Much Does It Cost To Become An Infectious Disease Nurse Practitioner?


The cost of becoming an infectious disease nurse practitioner is variable upon multiple factors. First, you must complete your BSN, and this can range from $40,000-$200,000 depending on if the school is private or public, the location of the school, and the status in which you attend (part-time vs. full-time). For example, state tuition for a public school will be cheaper than paying for a private school or even out-of-state tuition for a public school. The cost of completing your BSN will be influenced by whether you first completed your associate's nursing degree and then completed an RN-BSN program. Regardless of the path you choose, the critical piece is completing your BSN.

Once you complete your BSN, the next step is to graduate from NP school. Graduate school is also dependent on multiple factors, and the average cost for a BSN-to-MSN program is $81,810 to $185,280. The factors that influence the dramatic price range are the same as those listed for the BSN degree. There are other options, such as completing your BSN-to-DNP or MSN-to-DNP, which can also influence the cost of school.

Lastly, some certifications can be completed by the infectious disease NP, and most do cost money. Many employers will cover the cost of these certifications or provide a specified amount of money to put towards continuing education hours and certifications every couple of years.


Step-By-Step Process Of Becoming An Infectious Disease Nurse Practitioner


Becoming an infectious disease nurse practitioner is not an easy process. Below, I provide a step-by-step process in becoming an infectious disease NP.

1. Complete BSN degree:

The first step to becoming an infectious disease nurse practitioner is completing your BSN degree. This is necessary before you can apply for graduate school.

2. Pass the NCLEX exam:

After completing your BSN degree, you cannot practice until you pass the NCLEX-RN. The NCLEX-RN is the board certification exam for nurses and is required in all states. Once you pass NCLEX-RN, you can obtain your RN licensure and begin practicing as an RN.

3. Gain nursing experience:

This step is not required for those who desire to become an infectious disease nurse practitioner, but I do highly recommend gaining a minimum of 1-2 years of RN experience before applying to graduate school. As a nurse, the skills you learn are invaluable and will only help you in both NP school and as a practicing NP.

4. Apply to graduate/NP school:

Once you decide to become a nurse practitioner, the next step is to apply to graduate school. It is important to note that you make sure all pre-requisites are completed before you submit your application. If you have not completed all the pre-requisites, you must do so before applying.

5. Attend and graduate NP school:

Once accepted into a graduate program, you must decide what path to pursue. To become an infectious disease NP, there are many tracks to consider, including Family Medicine, Adult, Pediatrics, acute care, and Adult-Gerontology. If you are unsure what you want to do forever, you can always select one pathway now and obtain dual-certification later.

6. Pass national certification exam and obtain licensure:

After you graduate from an accredited NP program, becoming an infectious disease NP requires you to pass the certification exam appropriate for the program completed. Once you pass the relevant certification exam, you can complete the steps necessary to achieve state licensure. Your state board of nursing will have the specifics regarding the requirements to obtain your NP license. It is important to note, though, that most, if not all, states will require you to maintain the active status of both your RN and NP license.

7. Apply for jobs:

This step can start before you pass the certification exam and obtain licensure. Many employers will hire you before with the expectation that you will pass the certification exam. You would start after you get licensure and complete the credentialing process at your place of employment. Otherwise, you can choose to wait to apply for infectious disease nurse practitioner jobs until you obtain your license. Regarding applying for infectious disease jobs, some places may require a couple of years of NP experience before. Still, it never hurts to apply for an infectious disease job right out of school if you know that’s the career path you want to pursue. Lastly, be sure to ask if they will pay for and help you apply for your DEA license and other certifications/licenses if necessary.

8. Start your new job and enjoy!

Start your new career as an NP, and if it is not in infectious disease, gain a couple of years of experience and reapply to start your dream career.


Top Infectious Disease Nurse Practitioner Programs


There are currently no nurse practitioner programs or fellowships for nurse practitioners specific to the specialty of infectious disease.


Recommended Certifications To Enhance Your Job Role As An Infectious Disease NP


Certifications are an excellent way to demonstrate your passion, drive to deliver excellent care, commitment to a specialty or population, or to demonstrate your desire for personal growth. Below, I discuss one certification specific to those who want to become an infectious disease NP and a certification required by most institutions.

CIC®:

This certification is for professionals who work in infection prevention and control and want to demonstrate their competency within this specialty. The certification also demonstrates a person's commitment to infectious disease, including improving prevention and control of various infectious processes. The certification is good for five years, and after five years, you will have to complete the re-certification, which is suitable for another five years.

Another certification that will most likely be required to become an infectious disease NP is your basic life support (BLS) certification.

Basic Life Support (BLS):

This certification is required in practically all healthcare facilities. The BLS course teaches a person how to deliver appropriate and effective cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and when to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). After completing the course, you will also know how to care for a patient who is choking. This course is geared to both pediatric and adult patients.


List Of Fellowships & Residency Programs For Infectious Disease Nurse Practitioners


There are currently no nurse practitioner programs or fellowships for nurse practitioners specific to the specialty of infectious disease.


Continuing Education Requirements For Infectious Disease Nurse Practitioners


Continuing education requirements for those who desire to become an infectious disease nurse practitioner depend on the state you live in, and the certification held.

There are typically specified requirements regarding the number of continuing education credits needed to renew and maintain an active license. As I have stated above, most if not all states require you to maintain good status with both your RN and APRN license. Therefore, you must complete the necessary education for both to continue practicing as an infectious disease NP. These hours must be completed within a designated time frame (i.e., every two years) and often contain specifics regarding pharmacology and controlled substance requirements.

If you hold certifications specific to an area of nursing, such as the CIC®, you may have to complete additional continuing education to maintain the certification. Each certificate you hold will have specifics regarding the requirements for re-certification. Specific to infectious disease, the CIC has to be renewed every five years, while other certifications may need to be renewed every two to three years. If you have questions regarding your specific certification, reach out to the organization, and they will assist you further.


Starting Salary Of An Infectious Disease Nurse Practitioner


The starting infectious disease nurse practitioner salary is $34.59 an hour or $71,950 a year. This number is an average and can be influenced by multiple factors such as the city you live in, the hospital or organization you work, and hours worked.

Per Hour$34.59
Per Month$6,000
Per Year$71,950


Average Salary Of An Infectious Disease Nurse Practitioner


Have you wondered, what is the average salary of an infectious disease nurse practitioner? The average infectious disease nurse practitioner salary is $47.52 an hour or $98,842 a year. As stated above, this is an average salary and can be impacted by multiple factors. These factors include where you live, the hospital or organization you work, and years of experience as both an RN and NP.

Per Hour$47.52
Per Month$8,240
Per Year$98,842
(Source: Ziprecruiter.Com)


Job Outlook For Infectious Disease Nurse Practitioners


The job outlook is very promising for those who want to be an infectious disease nurse pracititoner, especially right now in a worldwide pandemic. There will always be infectious processes that require treatment from an infectious disease specialist. There will also always be the emergence of new infectious processes that will require the research and knowledge from infectious disease specialists to ensure appropriate diagnosis and treatment is developed and initiated.


Useful Organizations & Associations


Some organizations are beneficial to those who want to become an infectious disease NP. Below, I discuss one of these organizations that may assist you in your career as an infectious disease NP.

Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology:

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) is a professional organization for infectious preventionists. It primarily comprises healthcare providers such as nurses, physicians, public health professionals, and epidemiologists. The APIC provides educational resources, products, and services and a community of like-minded professionals to improve patient outcomes in regards to infectious disease.


Finally, Is Infectious Disease Nursing The Right NP Specialty For You?


Did the information I provided above answer your question, what is an infectious disease nurse practitioner? Becoming an infectious disease nurse practitioner takes time but includes pros such as the ability to care for a vast population of patients and work in various settings, including research. You deliver care to patients with infectious diseases, which encompasses a wide variety of illnesses and diseases. Overall, the infectious disease NP has the opportunity for a gratifying career, either caring for and treating infectious processes or researching new diseases and treatments to ensure patients receive the appropriate and best care possible when sick.


Kasee Wiesen DNP, APRN, FNP-C
Kasee Wiesen is a practicing family nurse practitioner. Her nursing background includes emergency medicine, pediatrics and peri-op. Education is a passion of Kasee’s, and she has taught BSN, RN-BSN and DNP students, and has enjoyed every moment of it!