How to become infection control coordinator in your dental office

Dental assisting opens many avenues for new responsibilities and career growth. Some dental assistants go on to become dental office managers. Others step into leadership roles within the dental assisting team. That can include taking on the position of infection control coordinator.

Many dental assistants are responsible for implementing infection control protocols that keep patients and co-workers safe in the office. But an infection control coordinator — sometimes called an infection control specialist — takes on additional accountability and a leadership position in their practice.

Among other tasks, an infection control coordinator:

  • Develops, implements, and manages office safety protocols to prevent the spread of infection
  • Ensures waste is properly disposed of
  • Logs safety-related records
  • Provides staff training
  • Stays up to date on the latest safety guidance and information

Becoming an infection control coordinator may also come with a raise, as the position often earns between $20 and $25 per hour.

If you’re interested in elevating into this role, here’s a helpful guide on how you can achieve your goal and take the next step in your career.

What education and credentials are ideal for an infection control coordinator?

Your team will look to you for training and advice on infection control measures. This means you not only need to know the standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) — but you also should understand how to implement them as effectively as possible in your dental office.

The CDC sets infection control guidelines for dental offices, as outlined in the Summary of Infection Prevention Practices in Dental Settings. The summary covers a variety of infection control practices you must learn, including hand hygiene, personal protective equipment (PPE) use, instrument sterilization and disinfection, and water quality.

OSHA doesn’t have specific guidelines for dentistry. However, federal OSHA standards for bloodborne pathogens and other biological, chemical, environmental, and physical hazards may apply in the dental office. Your state may also have its own OSHA-approved plan that your office must stay in compliance with.

Fortunately, there are resources from DANB and the DALE Foundation to help you learn the ins and outs of CDC and OSHA infection control guidelines.

  • The Infection Control (ICE) exam certificate ensures you meet the minimum national standard for competence in dental infection prevention and control tasks. It can be taken on its own or as part of DANB’s National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA), Certified Dental Assistant (CDA), or Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA) certifications.
  • The OSAP-DALE Foundation Dental Infection Prevention and Control Certificate is a comprehensive program that can enhance your infection control knowledge. Holding this certificate also demonstrates your commitment to learning, which can enhance your qualifications for an infection control coordinator position.
  • The Certified in Dental Infection Prevention and Control (CDIPC) certification, one of DANB’s newest offerings, demonstrates advanced knowledge of infection control. It’s intended for all dental team members who supervise or educate those who perform infection prevention and control.

Continuing education

You can further expand your expertise by taking continuing education courses designed to cover nuances of infection control and keep you up to date on the latest guidance. For example, the DALE Foundation offers specific courses on instrument processing and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in dental offices.

What soft skills are needed to be an infection control coordinator?

As someone who will be planning and implementing infection control measures for your whole practice, strong attention to detail is a must-have. There are many aspects to infection control to learn and apply — staying organized is crucial for your success in the role and the safety of your patients and teammates.

You should also be passionate about learning, as you’ll be responsible for keeping your office on the cutting edge of infection control and training the dental staff. Guidelines can shift over time, and staying on top of changes will ensure your team is well prepared and your patients stay as safe as possible.

How to get started

If you’re ready to take on the challenge of infection control coordinator in your office, start by discussing it with your manager. Explain that you’re ready to take on more responsibility in the practice and share why you want to step into the role. You want to not only show that you’re enthusiastic about taking on this new position — but also demonstrate why you’re qualified for it and how it would benefit the team and the practice.

If you don’t yet have the experience or credentials to step into a coordinator role, consider talking to your manager about what you need to do to make the jump. A good manager should be willing to give honest feedback and invest in your professional growth. They may even offer to help finance your continuing education or provide cross-training opportunities in the office.

To learn more about the infection control coordinator position, visit the DALE Foundation website.