Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) have become a significant and costly problem for healthcare institutions worldwide. Despite the crucial role of infection prevention and control (IC) procedures, there is a substantial body of evidence to indicate that IC knowledge and practices of health professional graduatesis, however, sub-optimal. This paper presents a discussion of the critical role microbiology plays in infection control education and practice, arguing that without an ability to apply microbiology knowledge to IC decision-making, there is an inherent risk of incorrect application of IC practices and thus a risk to patient(and nurse) safety. The authors propose a re-conceptualization of infection control competency, using nursing as an exemplar profession, to reflect practice that is not based on simple memorization of protocols but rather on a sound understanding of microbiology and informed decision-making. The proposal for re-conceptualizing the definition and assessment of IC competence, if adopted, would potentially enhance students’ understanding and synthesis of microbiology knowledge and help build students’ capacity to apply that knowledge to practice.