Archive for the ‘Infection control’ Category

h1

Measles 101: The Basics for Nurses

February 11, 2015

By Betsy Todd, MPH, RN, CIC, AJN clinical editor

Measles rash/CDC

Measles rash/CDC

While debates about measles vaccination swirl around the current U.S. measles outbreak, most U.S. nurses have never actually seen the disease itself, and right now we are a lot more likely to encounter a case of measles than of Ebola virus disease. Here, then, is a measles primer.

Symptoms. Measles is an upper-respiratory infection with initial symptoms of fever, cough, runny nose, red and teary eyes, and (just before the rash appears) “Koplik spots” (tiny blue/white spots) on a reddened buccal mucosa. The maculopapular rash emerges a few days after these first symptoms appear (about 14 days after exposure), beginning at the hairline and slowly working its way down the rest of the body.

Infected people who are severely immunosuppressed may not have any rash at all. “Modified” measles, with a longer incubation period and sparse rash, can occur in infants who are partially protected by maternal antibodies and in people who receive immune globulin after exposure to measles.

Transmission. The virus spreads via respiratory droplets and aerosols, from the time symptoms begin until three to four days after the rash appears. (People who are immunosuppressed can shed virus and remain contagious for several weeks.) Measles is highly contagious, and more than 90% of exposed, nonimmune people will contract the disease. There is no known asymptomatic carrier state, and no nonhuman animal is known to carry or spread the virus. The virus survives for less than two hours in the air or on surfaces, and is rapidly inactivated by heat, light, acids, and disinfectants.

Isolation. When measles is suspected, airborne isolation is necessary. If negative pressure is not available, the patient should be placed in a room with the door closed. Only immune staff wearing N-95 masks should enter the room.

Diagnosis. The usual test for measles is serologic testing for immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibody; a positive test confirms the diagnosis. IgM is often evident as soon as the rash appears, and can be detected for about a month. A negative IgM test on a specimen taken within 72 hours of rash onset may be a false negative; the test should be repeated. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

A Nursing Conference Focused on Quality and Safety, and a Big ‘What If?’

February 9, 2015

2015ANAQualityConferenceBanner600x100
By Maureen ‘Shawn’ Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

“What would quality in hospitals look like if health care institutions were as single-minded about serving clients as the Disney organization?”

Last week I attended the 2015 American Nurses Association Quality Conference in Orlando. The conference, which had its origins in the annual National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators (NDNQI) conference, drew close to 1,000 attendees. Here’s a quick overview of hot topics and the keynote speech by the new Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, plus a note on an issue crucial to health care quality that I wish I’d heard more about during the conference.

Most sessions presented quality improvement (QI) projects and many were well done. There were some topics I hadn’t seen covered all that much, such as reducing the discomfort of needlesticks, enhancing postop bowel recovery, and promoting sleep. But projects aimed at preventing central line infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs), and pressure ulcers ruled the sessions. These of course are among the hospital-associated conditions that might cause a hospital to be financially penalized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The ANA also had a couple of sessions on preventing CAUTIs by means of a tool it developed in the Partnership for Patients initiative of the CMS to reduce health care–associated infections.

The keynote by Robert McDonald, the fairly new Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, touted the services and resources available for the 9 million veterans who access care through the VA system. He surprised me and—if the murmuring I heard around me was any indication—a lot of others when he reported that patients in the VA system rated their care higher than did patients at general hospitals. The comment from an attendee: “Well, I guess it’s good once you get an appointment.”

He said the VA was “using the crisis of last year to move forward” and acknowledged that improving access was a priority, noting that the VA has hired 1,578 nurses since last year.

What if? It seemed appropriate that a meeting focused on quality took place at a venue known for its high quality customer focus. What would quality in hospitals look like if health care institutions were as single-minded about serving clients as the Disney organization? I’m not talking about the superficial attempts some hospitals implement, like valet parking or blazer-wearing patient service representatives. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

A Little Levity to Ease the Family Caregiver’s Burden

February 2, 2015
Illustration by Hana Cisarova for AJN/All right reserved.

Illustration by Hana Cisarova for AJN/All right reserved.

According to the CDC, almost 21% of households in the U.S. are affected by family caregiving responsibilities. The pressures and costs of this unpaid labor of love have been well documented.

This month’s Reflections essay, “Swabbing Tubby,” is written from the family caregiver perspective rather than that of a nurse. It’s about the wife and two adult daughters of an ailing older man as they are coached in one of the skills they will need to care for him at home.

It’s a tough situation, but one in this case leavened by the ability of these three women to laugh a little at the more absurd aspects of their predicament. Here’s the beginning:

In retrospect, I can’t help feeling sorry for the earnest young woman who tried so hard to show my mother, my sister, and myself how to hook up our brand-new, at-home, IV feeding device. She was all of 25, with the freshly scrubbed look of a young schoolgirl. Her youthful perkiness was no match for the trio of exhausted, crabby women who faced her across the empty hospital bed. Dad was down in X-ray having yet another CT scan, and the three of us were awaiting instructions on do-it-yourself intravenous feeding.

It’s not that they don’t take what they’re doing seriously or appreciate the training they are being given, or care for their suffering husband or father. But nurses know as well as anyone that resilience in the face of round-the-clock responsibility for another’s health and comfort demands more than just strong will—humor can be a crucial tool of those with real staying power. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Ebola Still Deserves Our Attention

January 26, 2015

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

Photographed by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) team member, and EIS Officer, Dr. Heidi Soeters during Guinea’s 2014 Ebola outbreak, this image depicts what resembled a garden of red- and green-colored gloves propped up on sticks in order to dry after having been washed in a hyperchlorinated solution, thereby, killing any live Ebola viral particles. The pink-colored gloves were merely inside-out red gloves with their interiors exposed. The image was captured on the grounds of Donka Hospital, located in the country's capital city of Conakry/CDC

Taken by Dr. Heidi Soeters during Guinea’s 2014 Ebola outbreak, photo depicts red- and green-colored gloves propped on sticks to dry after being washed in a hyperchlorinated solution./CDC

It’s sad but not surprising that Ebola has all but disappeared from the headlines. After all, it’s not an imminent threat here anymore. There’s no more news hype—no “you heard it here first” messaging each day to grab headlines.

While the numbers of new cases and deaths appear to have abated in most affected countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) emergency committee on the 2014 Ebola outbreak recently cautioned that “the event continues to constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern” and concluded:

“the primary emphasis must continue to be on ‘getting to zero’ Ebola cases, by stopping the transmission of Ebola within the three most affected countries [Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia]. This action is the most important step for preventing international spread. Complacency is the biggest risk to not getting to zero cases.”

As of the latest figures (Jan 21), there have been a total of 21,724 documented cases and 8,641 deaths worldwide—almost a 40% mortality rate. Among health care workers, there were 828 cases and 499 reported deaths.

Yet as communities are struggling to get back to normal routines (Sierra Leone, one of the hardest hit countries, with over 10,300 cases and 3,100 deaths, announced it will reopen schools in March for the first time in eight months), the rest of the world seems to have moved on, comfortable that the global threat has been mitigated.

The response of many governments and private organizations that poured resources into the hard-hits areas was laudable, and we saw how knowledgeable health care workers with the right equipment quickly made a difference.

But now what? What of the conditions—lack of health infrastructure, inadequate equipment, too few health care workers educated about Ebola and community health practices—that allowed the Ebola infection to spread unchecked for so long? The first WHO report on the Ebola outbreak was on August 29, 2014, but at first, the rest of the world remained unperturbed, seemingly viewing Ebola as an a problem specific to Africa. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Nurses at Center Stage: AJN’s Top 10 Blog Posts of 2014

December 12, 2014

By Jacob Molyneux, AJN senior editor/blog editor

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

Filamentous Ebola virus particles budding from an infected VERO E6 cell (35,000x magnification). Credit: NIAID

It’s unsurprising that some of our top blog posts this past year were about Ebola virus disease. But it’s worth noting that our clinical editor Betsy Todd, who is also an epidemiologist, cut through the misinformation and noise about Ebola very early on—at a time when many thoughtful people still seemed ill informed about the illness and its likely spread in the U.S.

Ebola is scary in itself, but fear was also spread by media coverage, some politicians, and, for a while, a tone-deaf CDC too reliant on absolutes in its attempts to reassure the public.

While the most dire predictions have not come true here in the U.S., it’s also true that a lot of work has gone into keeping Ebola from getting a foothold. A lot of people in health care have put themselves at risk to make this happen, doing so at first in an atmosphere of radical uncertainty about possible modes of transmission (uncertainty stoked in part by successive explanations offered as to how the nurses treating Thomas Eric Duncan at a Dallas hospital might have become infected).

And while, relative to the situation in Africa, a lot of knowledge and resources were readily available to support nurses and physicians who treated Ebola patients, the crisis has focused much-needed attention on the quality of the personal protective equipment (PPE) hospitals have been providing to health care workers.

Meanwhile, the suffering continues in Sierra Leone and other countries. Time magazine this week made the Ebola fighters here and overseas its collective Person of the Year for 2014. (See our recent post by Debbie Wilson, a Massachusetts nurse who worked in an Ebola treatment center in Liberia this fall. She will be visiting our offices next week for lunch with the staff.) Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Counting Your Blessings

November 26, 2014

By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

A perhaps idealized past: 'Home for Thanksgiving,' Currier and Ives lithograph/Wikimedia Commons

A perhaps idealized past: ‘Home for Thanksgiving,’ Currier and Ives lithograph/Wikimedia Commons

At the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., it’s customary to take some time to reflect on our good fortune—to give thanks for what we have. For many of us, it means being thankful for family and good health. But what about all the other people who may make a difference in how we live our lives, who make the world in which we live better or in some indirect way have had an impact on what we do, how we do it, how we feel about life or our work?

Here are some folks I’d like to thank:

  • The incredibly talented team here at AJN who are committed to fulfilling AJN’s mission to provide accurate, evidence-based content with high journalistic standards, and the publishing team that provides the resources it takes to deliver on our mission.
  • AJN’s editorial boards, contributing editors, and peer reviewers, who contribute their expertise and wisdom to keep AJN on track.
  • Organizations like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, AARP, Johnson & Johnson, the Jonas Foundation, the John Hartford Foundation, the Macy Foundation, and others who believe in the value of nursing and provide support to further the profession.
  • Carolyn Jones, the photographer and filmmaker, for her wonderful book and film project, The American Nurse, which portrays the incredible work of nurses across settings and makes it visible to the public.
  • Brave people like nurses Kaci Hickox and Debbi Wilson and physician Craig Spencer and their colleagues at Doctors without Borders/MSF and at other relief agencies who volunteer (often with considerable risk to themselves) to provide care and compassion to those who need it (read about Wilson’s experience in a Liberian Ebola-treatment center in her recent blog post).
  • Nurses who make the hard decisions and are examples to us all, like the U.S. Navy nurse who has refused to force-feed detainees at Guantanamo Bay because it violates professional ethics.
  • Nursing faculty, who pursue teaching careers because they are committed to educating the next generation of nurses.
  • Nurses who stand up for colleagues, new and old, and work to promote teamwork and unity in the workplace.
  • And the nurses who, every day, show up and do whatever it takes to meet the needs of the patients in their care.

Bookmark and Share

h1

Ebola Changes You: Reflections of a Nurse Upon Return from Liberia

November 12, 2014

By Deborah Wilson, RN. The author is currently an IV infusion therapist with the Berkshire Visiting Nurses Association in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and is completing her BSN at UMass Amherst. In October, she returned from Liberia, where she worked with Doctors Without Borders at a 120-bed Ebola treatment center. Names of patients mentioned in the article have been changed to protect patient privacy.

At the cemetery, newly dug graves

At the cemetery, newly dug graves

I have recently returned from Liberia, where I worked as a nurse for six weeks along with a dedicated team of physicians, nurses, and other professionals, treating 60 to 80 Ebola patients a day. My 21-day transition time is recently over and, although I am back at work and school, my heart is with the West African nurses who I worked with for those weeks in September and October.

I worked in a town called Foya, managing a 120-bed Ebola treatment center (ETC). During the first two weeks, I wondered if I would last. In the grueling heat, dressed up in all that personal protective equipment (PPE), constantly sprayed with chlorine, each day I was haunted by the question of whether I’d somehow gotten infected.

It all took its toll. Twice a shift the nursing team would put on PPE and enter the confirmed Ebola isolation area. People lay on mattresses on the floor, vomit and diarrhea everywhere. In our bulky gear, double-gloved, goggles fogging and sweat running out of every pore, we would insert IVs, push meds, try to help someone eat a little something, tell the hygienists that a body needed to be removed to the morgue.

So how did I go from wondering how I would make it through my six-week assignment to now actually considering going back? It was thinking about the nurses and teams who are still there going in every day, never having a 21-day transition period like mine to look forward to, all with colleagues and family who died during this devastating outbreak.

With staff at the 120-bed Ebola clinic in Foya

With staff at the 120-bed Ebola clinic in Foya

Our lives were in each other’s hands—we helped each other dress in PPE and double-checked each other before going in. Talking with one patient, I said, “we must look really weird,” and he laughed, which made us all laugh.

But there was not much laughter in the area for confirmed cases. We never knew who would live or die; sometimes the healthiest would suddenly be dead. We delivered babies who were so small and premature—I think about the young 19-year-old mother dying only an hour after her little boy had been placed in a white body bag and given a name so he could be identified in the morgue. I find myself wondering what her and her son would be doing now if there had been a way to save her.

I wonder about Joy, whose love and dedication to her husband touched all of us deeply. Daily she would come to the fence with his favorite food and George would come out and sit on the other side. When he got too sick to come outside, we dressed her in PPE and took her in, where she prayed with him. We all rejoiced when a pregnancy test revealed that Joy was pregnant, then saw her nearly immobilized with grief the next day when George died. Joy’s cries and sobs as the psychosocial team sat with her is something I still wake up to. I wonder how she is doing and where she is now. Will she have a boy or girl and what will she tell him/her about George?

The Liberian nurses still call me on the phone. They tell me that there is not one case of Ebola now in the ETC! Many have to go back to the health clinics where they worked before. All of them lost colleagues because, when sick people came to their clinics, they had no gloves, masks, or chlorine to protect them. Will they have basic protective equipment now?

They also haven’t been paid for September or October. The Liberian Ministry of Health keeps saying that they will get paid, but I fear that this outbreak has wreaked such havoc on the economy that they have risked their lives, working in conditions we will never have to endure, perhaps only to also risk earning no income as well for their efforts.

My three-week transition involved learning the news of the two nurses in Texas who were infected caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, of physician Craig Spencer testing positive in New York City and Kaci Hickox being locked up in an unheated New Jersey tent with no shower. At times I thought I would go mad—watching as a collective insanity gripped our nation about a virus unlikely to ever take hold in the U.S., I yearned for the day when we could instead turn our attention to what I believe this terrible epidemic in West Africa could really be teaching us: Read the rest of this entry ?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,369 other followers

%d bloggers like this: