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Ebola: A Role for Nurses in Sharing the Facts

October 29, 2014

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 12.27.27 PMThe current Ebola crisis has everyone concerned over transmission, and rightly so. The public has been in a quandary as to who and what to believe. I can’t say I blame them. We should have been better prepared and anticipated that, given the situation in West Africa, we would eventually see a patient with Ebola present to a U.S. hospital ED (or clinic or urgent care center). What’s surprising is that it didn’t happen sooner.

I’d thought fears about widespread transmission of Ebola had abated after no more new cases arose from that of Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas: his family, who were in the apartment with him during the time he was sick, did not contract Ebola and have since been released from quarantine; the two nurses who became ill treating Duncan have now been declared Ebola free and none of their contacts have become ill; no other nurses who provided care for him have fallen ill.

But with the onset of confirmed Ebola in a New York physician who had recently returned from caring for Ebola victims in West Africa, fears of widespread contagion resurfaced. Craig Spencer had been self-monitoring his symptoms while he went about his life; when he began to feel ill and developed a low-grade fever, he initiated a controlled transport in isolation to Bellevue Hospital.

And when nurse Kaci Hickox returned from volunteering in West Africa, she was caught in New Jersey’s new Ebola precautions and placed in mandatory quarantine in a tent outside a hospital in Newark. She protested, secured attorneys to advocate on her behalf (basing her protest on CDC recommendations that routine quarantine of nonsymptomatic health care workers is not justified), and was released to travel home to Maine, where she is now disputing Maine’s mandatory in-home quarantine and active monitoring requirement in favor of self-monitoring. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fear of Infection, Getting Job Done: Not New to Nurses

October 27, 2014

Quarantine, isolation: medical terms heavy with accreted meanings (psychological, metaphorical). Terms we’ve been hearing a lot lately, as in the case of nurse Kaci Hickox, quarantined in a tent in New Jersey after her return from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, released today after days of public controversy.

These words have vivid histories. Epidemics of polio, influenza, and other illnesses took many lives in the U.S. during the 20th century. And nurses were always there, taking risks, applying the latest knowledge to control or cure. In the April 1940 edition of the American Journal of Nursing, a nurse wrote a short but evocative essay about her own fears of entering an isolation room to treat a child with an unnamed condition, perhaps measles or scarlet fever. Here’s a snippet.

Germs

(One wonders if she had been given the recommended personal protective equipment of the time for such infections . . .)

To read the article, free until December 1, click this link and then click through to the PDF version in the upper-right corner of the landing page.—Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

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Choosing Wisely: American Academy of Nursing Highlights Unnecessary Nursing Practices

October 24, 2014

The American Academy of Nursing (AAN) recently announced that it has joined the ABIM Choosing Wisely campaign with a list that focuses specifically on nursing interventions or practices that are not supported by evidence. The list is called Five Things Nurses and Patients Should Question. Here it is in short form—full explanations of the rationale for each item are available at the above link.

  1. Don’t automatically initiate continuous electronic fetal heart rate Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 11.10.10 AMmonitoring during labor for women without risk factors; consider intermittent auscultation first.
  2. Don’t let older adults lay in bed or only get up to a chair during their hospital stay.
  3. Don’t use physical restraints with an older hospitalized patient.
  4. Don’t wake the patient for routine care unless the patient’s condition or care specifically requires it.
  5. Don’t place or maintain a urinary catheter in a patient unless there is a specific indication to do so.

The Choosing Wisely initiative encourages health care provider organizations to create their own lists of tests and procedures that may be overused, unsafe, or duplicated elsewhere. Using these lists, providers can initiate conversation with their patients to help them choose the most necessary and evidence-based care for their individual situations. The lists are not meant to be proscriptive, and also address situations where the procedures may be appropriate. Read the rest of this entry »

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At the Intersection of Hospice and Obstetrics, a True Test of Patient-Centered Care

October 22, 2014

By Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

Renee Noble with her newborn daughter, Violet. Photo by Heidi Ricks.

Renee Noble with her newborn daughter, Violet. Photo by Heidi Ricks.

We’d like to draw attention to a particularly frank and thought-provoking article in the October issue of AJN. “A Transformational Journey Through Life and Death,” written by a perinatal nurse specialist who is also a bioethicist, describes a hospital’s experience in meeting the needs of a patient with two very different, potentially conflicting, medical conditions.

It was a sunny afternoon in mid-October when I first met Renee Noble. I had already heard about her from staff who had given Renee and Heidi Ricks, her friend and doula, a tour of the neonatal ICU and were taken aback when they asked to see the Hospice Inn as well. The nurses knew that Renee had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but no one had said anything about it being terminal. Heidi had insisted that after Renee delivered she would need hospice inpatient care. Alarmed, the staff had called me, the perinatal clinical nurse specialist, after Renee and Heidi left.

In addition, this is a patient with strong preferences about her own care, preferences that may be at odds with the more conventional approaches to treatment held by many nurses and physicians. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nurse Informaticists Address Texas Ebola Case, EHR Design Questions

October 17, 2014

By Susan McBride, PhD, RN-BC, CPHIMS, professor and program director of the Masters in Nursing Informatics Program, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, and Mari Tietze, PhD, RN-BC, FHIMSS, associate professor and director, Interprofessional Health IT Program at Texas Woman’s University (TWU). The views expressed are those of the authors and don’t represent those of Texas Tech or TWU.

Silo_-_height_extension_by_adding_hoops_and_staves

EHRs: information ‘siloes’ or interprofessional collaboration?

The recent Ebola case in Dallas—in which a patient was admitted to the hospital three days after he visited the ER exhibiting symptoms associated with Ebola and reporting that he’d recently traveled from West Africa—brought this global public health story close to home for many of us residing in the area. As has been widely reported, the patient died last week after nearly 10 days in the hospital.

An initial focus of media coverage was the suggestion that a failure of nursing communication had contributed to the release of the patient from the hospital on his first visit. Partly reflecting evolving explanations offered by the hospital, the media focus then shifted to a potential flaw in the hospital’s electronic health record (EHR) system, in which information recorded by a nurse about the patient’s travel history might not have been visible to physicians as well. Read the rest of this entry »

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Addressing Nurses’ Urgent Concerns About Ebola and Protective Equipment

October 15, 2014

By Betsy Todd, MPH, RN, CIC, AJN clinical editor. (See also her earlier post, “Ebola: A Nurse Epidemiologist Puts the Outbreak in Perspective.”)

This is not a time to panic. It is a time to get things right.—John Nichols, blogging for the Nation, 10/12/2014

Scanning electron micrograph of filamentous Ebola virus particles budding from an infected VERO E6 cell (35,000x magnification). Credit: NIAID

Scanning electron micrograph of filamentous Ebola virus particles budding from an infected VERO E6 cell (35,000x magnification). Credit: NIAID

For years, nurses have tolerated increasingly cheap, poorly made protective gear—one result of health care’s “race to the bottom” cost-cutting. Now the safety of personal protective equipment (PPE) is being hotly debated as the Ebola epidemic spills over into the U.S.

If all nurses had access to impermeable gowns that extended well below the knee (and could be securely closed in back, had real cuffs, and didn’t tear easily); faceguards that completely shielded; N95 respirator masks that could be properly molded to the face; and disposable leg and shoe covers, we might not be having the same conversation. Yet how much protection can we count on from the garb we now have available, especially considering the minimal donning and doffing training given to most nurses?

While there is more to be learned about possible “outlier” modes of Ebola transmission, it’s pretty clear from past experience (including recent Ebola hospitalizations at Emory University Hospital and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where no transmission has occurred) that standard, contact, and droplet precautions will virtually always prevent Ebola virus transmission. Because of the theoretical possibility that the virus could be aerosolized during procedures like intubation or suctioning, airborne precautions are usually added. (And from what we’ve seen, they’re being followed routinely, and not used only during aerosolizing procedures.)

Many organizations, including National Nurses United, are calling for hazmat-type gear and PAPR hoods (powered air-purifying respirators, which are HEPA-filtered) for staff who care for Ebola patients. Because most nurses have not used these, this more complex gear presents new challenges, especially because of the potential for self-contamination when worn and removed by untrained staff.

Specific techniques for donning and doffing PPE are not new, but many nurses have never been taught to pay attention to these details. One has only to look at staff in a contact precautions room, only half covered by their untied gowns, to understand why resistant organisms continue to spread within hospitals. Many clinicians may not have believed that their cavalier attitude towards PPE had anything to do with the next patient’s nosocomial MRSA pneumonia. During this Ebola epidemic, though, we are quickly learning that the proper use of PPE is a matter of life and death—ours. Read the rest of this entry »

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Planning Postdischarge Care with Cognitively Impaired Adults

October 15, 2014
McCauley

A patient performs the CLOX 1, a clock-drawing task used to assess patients for cognitive impairment. Photo by Ed Eckstein.

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

The transition from hospital to home can be fraught with pitfalls, especially if the patient in question is an older adult with multiple conditions and a not-so-prepared caregiver. The transitional care model, in which NPs coordinate care and provide follow-up care after discharge, has been shown to be successful in reducing hospital readmissions in this group of patients.

With Medicare levying penalties on hospitals with higher-than-average readmissions rates, the stakes aren’t just high for patients and their families. Might similar models of care also work with cognitively impaired adults?

In “Studying Nursing Interventions in Acutely Ill, Cognitively Impaired Older Adults,” a feature article in AJN‘s October issue (free until the end of October), Kathleen McCauley and colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania seek to answer this question, among others.

In the article, McCauley and colleagues describe the methodology and protocols used in their study, summarize their findings, and discuss some of the challenges in conducting research in the clinical setting. Among their findings is the important lesson that research involving cognitively impaired older adults must actively engage clinicians, patients, and family caregivers, as well as the need for hospitals to make cognitive screening of older adults who are hospitalized for an acute condition “a standard of care.” Read the rest of this entry »

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