As both the president of the Infection Prevention Society and deputy director of infection prevention control at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, it’s clear that Dr Neil Wigglesworth is a busy man who wears many hats
neil wigglesworth photo
Dr Neil Wigglesworth has been with Guy’s and St Thomas’ for a little more than two years, he tells me, but he has been in infection prevention since 1995. In the course of his more than 20-year career,
Dr Wigglesworth has held various roles in a number of organisations.
He has been president of the Infection Prevention Society - which represents around 2,000 members working in the field of infection prevention and control - since September 2016.
“The presidency is a voluntary role with a two year commitment, so I spend my ‘spare’ time doing that,” he says with a laugh. “I have a full-time job, but my employer allows me some flexibility to do my presidency role.”
But it’s clear to me throughout the interview that Dr Wigglesworth not only balances his roles effectively, but also embraces the challenge of his busy career.
“A typical day with infection prevention is difficult to describe,” he says. “Infection prevention and control as a specialty reaches across the whole of healthcare.”
“The presidency is a voluntary role, so I spend my ‘spare’ time doing that”
His roles are quite varied between what he calls his ‘day job’ - his time spent at Guy’s and St Thomas’ - and working with the Infection Prevention Society.
“At my day job, I work in a large teaching acute trust,” Dr Wigglesworth says. “It’s a large organisation and it’s a university teaching hospital trust.”
This means that he might be advising, developing policy, teaching within the trust or even teaching at university.
“A typical day with infection prevention is difficult to describe”
As president of the Infection Prevention Society, Dr Wigglesworth works with other members who also have ‘day jobs’ because being a member of the society is completely voluntary. So, they might be coordinating conferences, supporting education development, visiting intensive care units or providing input on planning for the development of hospital settings to ensure the correct prevention measures are taken.
Dr Wigglesworth has been a member of the Infection Prevention Society since he started in the specialty near the beginning of his career.
“I have always volunteered for roles in the society during my time,” he says. “I’ve always found that volunteering is good to for me both professionally and for giving back.”
I ask why he decided to follow this career path, and his passion for infection control and prevention is clear to me.
Dr Wigglesworth was a critical care nurse before entering his current line of work. He was drawn to the variety infection control offers.
“Every day is different and there’s always something new,” he says. “I deal with everybody in the hospital, whether it be midwives, adults, children or outpatients — every single part you deal with.”
“Every day is different and there’s always something new”
He also notes that to work in this field, having an understanding of a broad range of areas can help people excel.
“You have to have a range of skills and knowledge,” he explains. “You might have to understand microbiology, but also understand management and all the other parts of the hospital.” Becoming an expert isn’t necessary, but willingness to learn is vital, he added
The Infection Prevention Society helps its members grow in the field, he says.
“Developing our members is one of the most important things we do as a society.”
He also notes that in his role as president, he works with others who are in health and social care settings across the UK and Ireland - all of whom share the same reason for joining the infection prevention and control line of work, he says.
“The reason we do what we do is to prevent every possible avoidable infection in health and care settings,” Dr Wigglesworth explains.
But in the end, it’s the teamwork that truly makes something successful to Dr Wigglesworth.
“If you succeed, it’s because of the people and the teams around you,” he says. “So whether I’m in my full-time role or board role, we have been successful in a number of ways. None of that would be possible without the entire infection prevention teams.”