IP earnings holding steady

2017 infection prevention salary survey shows modest gains, few losses

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The 2017 Healthcare Purchasing News annual infection prevention (IP) salary survey conveys some encouraging news. The annual average salary rose to $78,345. In 2016, the salary roller coaster took a dip, but this year the annual salary rose by $716 over 2016. It still is less than the $79,229 reported in 2015, but, it does appear to be on the rise again.

Raises in annual salaries increased just slightly, with 60 percent of respondents receiving a raise in 2017. Thirty-five percent of respondents’ salaries remained the same. Six percent unfortunately experienced a decrease in salary. The average annual salary increase was just under 3 percent, the same as last year.

Only 13 percent of respondents expect to receive a bonus or some sort of incentive this year. Seventy-eight percent do not expect a bonus, and 9 percent do not know whether they will receive a bonus. These are very similar numbers to 2016. As for the value of the bonus or incentive, based on their current salary, 50 percent of respondents expect a bonus of 1 percent to 2 percent, based on their current salary; 37 percent of respondents answered 3 percent to 4 percent; and the remainder were fortunate to receive bonuses ranging from 5 percent to more than 10 percent.

Job security has improved slightly since last year, with 48 percent of respondents feeling very secure in their position, which is two percent above 2016 survey results. Forty-seven percent of respondents feel somewhat secure. Only 6 percent feel somewhat insecure.

The snapshot

Our snapshot of the average IP professional is much the same in many areas this year as in the previous year. It will come as no surprise that females predominate the profession at 90 percent. Only 6 percent are male, and 4 percent declined to answer regarding gender. These numbers are almost identical to last year’s numbers.

Our composite respondent is a registered nurse, certified by the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology. She has spent almost 9 years working in IP at her current facility and 11 years working in IP.

One of the biggest differences this year is age. Our composite IP professional is younger this year, with an average age of 47 years, down from 52 years old in 2016 and 53 years old in 2015. This may be encouraging news, since it has been a concern in past years that many IPs are approaching retirement and will take with them their valuable personal knowledge base. Or, perhaps, the feared trend has begun.

For 50 percent of our respondents, their highest level of education is a bachelor’s degree; post-graduate, 27 percent; associate’s degree, 22 percent; and high-school degree, 1 percent. Again, these numbers are virtually identical to last year’s.

Not surprisingly, level of education has a bearing on salaries, with, on average, post-graduate degrees earning the most, $89,117, down from $91,764 in 2016; bachelor’s degree, $76,545, virtually identical to last year’s $76,540; associate’s degree, $69,771, up a few thousand dollars from 2016’s $66,907; and the biggest difference is in high-school–degree earnings, which jumped from $40,000 in 2016 to $60,000 this year.

A breakdown by title and salary shows that the average IP professional most often bears the title infection preventionist (25 percent of respondents), with an average salary of $79,161. The title IP/IC director comes in at the highest earning amount, with 16 percent of respondents making an average of $86,800. Nineteen percent of respondents are IP/IC coordinators, with an average salary of $71,274. Twenty percent of respondents wear the title IP/IC manager, at $86,628; IP/IC nurses (12 percent) earn $65,204; IP/IC practitioners (6 percent), $75,607; quality, risk manager (1 percent), $80,000; and sterile processing manager (1 percent), $67,500. Forty-five percent of our respondents report directly to the vice president or director, quality or risk management.

It is interesting to compare these figures with other sources. Payscale.com1 questioned IC coordinators concerning their salary, and concluded, “The average inexperienced worker’s salary is approximately $60K, and people with five to 10 years of experience bring in more at around $69K on average. Infection control coordinators who work for 10 to 20 years in their occupation tend to earn about $82K. Folks who claim more than 20 years of relevant experience actually report a comparatively lower median income of $77K.” Payscale cited $71,870 as the average salary for an IC coordinator, compared to $71,274 in this report.

According to Salary.com,2 the median annual wage for IC coordinator is $76,437. Salary.com breaks down income of IC coordinators by location. For instance, in Nashville, TN, with a population of approximately 700,000, IC coordinators can expect a salary of $71,805, but IC coordinators who work in Cookeville, TN, population approximately 32,000, about 80 miles east of Nashville, can expect to make less, at $67,202. Salaries may vary by region as well as size of city.

The working environment

Average-sized hospital this year is 219 beds (206, 2016), with a higher percentage of small facilities reported again this year. Our current numbers reflect that our composite infection preventionist is employed at a facility with 100 to 199 beds (20 percent). Nineteen percent of respondents are employed in facilities with up to 25 beds; 7 percent in facilities with 26 to 49 beds; 13 percent, 50 to 99 beds; 12 percent, 200 to 299 beds; and the remainder is comprised of larger facilities with number of beds ranging from 300 to more than 1,000 beds.

Most survey respondents (39 percent) work in a rural facility. Thirty-one percent work in an urban facility, and 30 percent work in a suburban facility. Sixty-seven percent of our respondents work in a nonprofit facility, 24 percent in a for-profit facility; and 8 percent for a government-owned facility, similar numbers to last year’s. Fifty-six percent are employed at stand-alone hospitals; 27 percent at an IDN, alliance, or multi-group health system; 6 percent at a long-term acute-care facility; 5 percent at a behavioral/psychiatric health facility; and the remaining 5 percent are employed in other healthcare settings.

The number of infection preventionists employed in “other” healthcare settings is of interest to one of our salary-survey respondents, Kelly Zabriskie, CIC, Manager, Infection Prevention, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia, PA. Zabriskie believes the role of the IP professional should be expanded to nclude alternative healthcare settings more often, because patient care is undergoing change. “I think one area that we need to look at is the role of the infection preventionist in outpatient and physician-based practice settings. Most respondents are in the acute-care setting, and we need to increase our presence in the outpatient and physician-based practice setting, as more and more focus is being directed toward these practices. This is an area that should have an IP presence as much as acute-care or long-term–care settings. These areas should not be overlooked as needing to have infection preventionists, as more and more of these practices are coming under the hospital license and are performing more in-depth and invasive procedures.”

The majority (75 percent) of respondents reported working in IP departments averaging 1 to 2 employees. Seventeen percent of respondents work in departments comprised of 3 to 5 employees. Only 6 percent are employed in an IP department with 6 to 10 employees.

Unfortunately, less than one half of respondents, 45 percent (41 percent, 2016), report that their facility’s infection preventionist:patient ratio is in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations of one IP per 100 beds. The good news is that it at least is a few points higher than last year. The bad news is that 24 percent report that their department is not in line with CDC recommendations on number of infection preventionists per patients, and 31 percent, disturbingly, have no idea whether their ratio meets CDC recommendations. Clearly, this is an area that could use some attention and effort from administration. If these numbers were more in line with CDC recommendations, perhaps infection preventionists could spend more time on their raison d’être instead of being spread too thin on a variety of tasks that sometimes could be accomplished with less expensive information technology or administrative staff.

Here is how responding infection preventionists reported spending their time. Unfortunately, only 36 percent are in a position to spend 100 percent of their time on IP/IC; 7 percent spend 90 percent to 99 percent of their time on IP/IC; 15 percent spend 80 percent to 89 percent of their time on IP/IC; 11 percent spend 70 percent to 79 percent of their time on IC/IP; 7 percent spend 60 percent to 69 percent of their time on IP/IC; and 13 percent spend 50 percent to 59 percent of their time on IP/IC. These numbers are similar, and sometimes identical, to last year’s breakdown.

The top 10 areas in which responding IP professionals spend their time when not actively working on IP are employee/occupational health, 37 percent; National Healthcare Safety Network, 32 percent; education/compliance, 28 percent; immunization/vaccination, 20 percent; disaster preparedness, 16 percent; quality performance management, 16 percent; environment of care management, 14 percent; patient safety, 12 percent; core measures, 8 percent; and workers’ compensation, 7 percent.

Trending—or maybe not

It is concerning that the number of facilities that adopted a handwashing surveillance program dropped from 60 percent in 2016 to 53 percent this year. Twenty-eight percent of respondents’ facilities have not adopted a handwashing surveillance program, compared to 18 percent last year; 17 percent are considering it; and 2 percent don’t know what their facility has in mind.

Only 24 percent of respondents’ facilities are using, or planning to use, a room-disinfection system; 51 percent are not; 21 percent are considering; and 5 percent do not have a bead on the facilities’ plans.

With the explosion of personal electronics—such as tablets, smart phones, and laptops—now used by clinicians during the course of patient care, one would think that putting a disinfection program in place for those items would be a priority, but, survey results do not reflect an increase in that area. Only 12 percent have instituted a disinfection program, 54 percent answered no; 27 percent are giving it some thought; and 7 percent are unaware of their facility’s plans. These numbers are very close to 2016’s.

Apparently the serious attention focused on antibiotic resistance is having effect. Eighty-five percent of respondents indicated their facility has adopted an antimicrobial stewardship program, which is 13 percent more than 2016’s 72 percent. Five percent of respondents answered they have not adopted an antimicrobial stewardship program, which is 4 percent fewer than last year. Only 9 percent are taking it under consideration, compared to 19 percent in 2016, which hopefully means those who make up the 10 percent difference are on board now. One percent, the same as last year, don’t know whether their facility has, or is considering, adoption of an antimicrobial stewardship program.

One of IP professionals’ most common complaints is how much of their time they have to spend on manually gathering, analyzing, and disseminating data. Automated systems can relieve IP professionals of much of this burden. Support staff would further this interest. Fortunately, more facilities are using data-mining software to track, report, and analyze infection trends. Forty-six percent, 8 percent more than in 2016, are currently using data-mining software; 49 percent are not; and 5 percent are considering use.

There is no question that IP/IC has a much higher profile than it did before the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began imposing penalties for certain hospital-acquired infections (HAIs). It has become abundantly clear that quality patient care, resulting in fewer HAIs and readmissions, has financial benefits. In answer to the question, “Do you feel the C-suite in your facility understands and appreciates the IP role in providing good patient care while managing costs,” more answered affirmatively this year than last: 53 percent (2016, 46 percent) said yes; 36 percent (37 percent) answered no; and 12 percent (18 percent) don’t know, but fortunately that number is smaller than last year.

Zabriskie commented on how the role of infection preventionists has expanded to include concerns about their facility’s financial health. “The infection preventionist is no longer just doing surveillance and making sure people wash their hands. We are taking on a bigger role in quality as we are asked to understand and tackle pay-for-performance measures like value-based purchasing and healthcare-acquired conditions reduction penalties.”

Sixty-six percent of respondents are members of a product-evaluation committee. The top 10 areas for which respondents are responsible for evaluating and/or purchasing are hand sanitizers, 80 percent; disinfectants and sterilants, 72 percent; handwashing systems/hand-hygiene monitoring, 64 percent; cleaning equipment and supplies, 63 percent; gloves, 60 percent; needlestick/sharps safety devices, 56 percent; masks/respirators, 51 percent; protective wear, 46 percent; ATP cleaning verification/testing devices, 44 percent; and antimicrobial surfaces/coatings, 41 percent.

“The IP needs to become well versed in these measures to be able to speak to administration as to processes put in place to meet the goals of these pay-for-performance measures, something that was not looked at for this role in previous years,” Zabriskie said. “The infection preventionist role is increasing and expected to take a more active role in the quality field.”

Reference:

1. Payscale.com. Infection control coordinator salary. http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Infection_Control_Coordinator/Salary. Updated January 18, 2017. Last accessed April 5, 2017.

2. Salary.com. Infection control coordinator. http://swz.salary.com/SalaryWizard/Infection-Control-Coordinator-Salary-Details-New-York-NY.aspx. Last accessed April 5, 2017.

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