Nurses, the front line of patient care, were likely not surprised when Nina Pham became infected with Ebola while treating patient Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas. They have been worried for a while about such diseases and proper safety precautions at their hospitals. However, worries were amplified thanks to Pham’s contraction of the disease, especially given the extreme precautions typically taken when dealing with deadly diseases that lack a cure.
Pham’s case is interesting, as she apparently followed her hospital’s procedures for dealing with infection control. She wore a gown, mask, gloves and face shield.
So what needs to happen at hospitals and health care facilities around the country to help assuage their nurses’ concerns and ensure that their procedures are foolproof when it comes to dealing with infectious diseases?
Patients requiring isolation require the utmost precaution. There should be:
- A room to gown and a room to de-gown after seeing a patient.
- A colleague watching the nurse suit up and down to ensure that it’s being done efficiently, especially since nurses don’t have the extra safety of a Hazmat suit when they visit patients.
- Extra measures taken to make sure that nurses working with Ebola patients or other infectious diseases aren’t fatigued. Lapses in judgment and care can happen especially if nurses are working a 12-hour or longer shift. Therefore, proper staffing must be in place to prevent overworked nurses from having to care for patients with deadly diseases.
The issue with nurses is that sometimes the patient’s needs outweigh thoughts of their safety and health. They are continuously looking for ways to care for and help someone feel better. Sometimes, this comes at the expense of the nurse, as in Pham’s case. Hospitals and health care facilities need to help their nurses and staff feel confident that all precautions are being taken.
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