Thursday, October 16, 2014

From one nurse to another: Ebola

Hi.  For those of you who don't know me or follow the blog, my name is Eric.  I've been an ER nurse for the past 6 years.  For the last 4 years I have been traveling between different ER's across the country.  It has been a privilege to work alongside many of you.  I want to take a second to talk about Ebola.

Right now we are nervous, just a little.  Ebola is still a punch line with our grim sense of humor.  But there is a real chance that it will get a lot less funny.  It is not yet probable, but all too possible, that we will see a large number of cases in our country and in our departments. I want to be ready.

As nurses we have a few responsibilities.  First and foremost is the safety of ourselves and our patients.  I think that begins with education.  Education is a primary duty of nurses.  I am asking you to educate yourself about the virus and disease and help educate everyone else.  There is misinformation everywhere and we are singularly able to combat it.  There are enough of us out there that we can turn the tide of ignorance. 

For instance, Ebola is not airborne.  Yes, technically you could catch it through transmission of a sneeze if you were close enough, but that isn't airborne.  The distinction is important.  Droplet isn't airborne. We all know people will get an idea in their heads because they heard someone say something not quite right.  You hear someone say it is transmitted through the air and look up airborne diseases and next thing you know, people stop going to work for fear of catching Ebola.  I don't know about you, but I would like the grocery stores and gas stations and myriad other services to stay on in the event that this gets worse before it gets better.  Panic never helps.  The enemy of panic is knowledge. If you look at the early problems with this outbreak in Africa, much of it was caused by the spread of misinformation.  People refused to seek treatment because they believed the people in the hazmat suits were bringing the disease.  There is a website going around now that says Ebola was planted in Africa as a method of population control.  That type of misinformation can further the spread and keep people who might need it from seeking treatment.  Even a claim such as that which doesn't stand up to basic scrutiny, can cause massive problems if left to perpetuate unchecked.  Please correct misinformation when you see it. 

That knowledge includes us.  We need to know how best to deal with this disease if it does show up.  Look around your department and your isolation carts.  This is what you have and what you will deal with.  Not everyone will get issued full hazmat suits and gear until well after the initial patient encounters are done.  Look at what you have and practice with it.  A fellow nurse and I did that recently amid the snickers and comments of our coworkers.  I sincerely hope it remains a joke, but will be prepared if it isn't.  Our current gear leaves something to be desired and has weaknesses.  If you haven't practiced and examined and thought about this in calm times, it won't be there for you when stress arrives.  You don't want to be trying to figure out the vulnerabilities in your PPE when you are covered in possibly infectious material.  Now, when all is calm, take a look. 

Nurses and doctors have dealt with this disease safely before and we can again.  Having been all around the country, I know the nurses in our hospitals are strong, capable and dedicated beyond most people's ability to understand.  If anyone can beat this, we can. 

I want to leave you with a quote I picked up from my dad.

It is what we do now, when we don't have to do anything, that makes us what we need to be when it is too late to do anything about it. 

Now, back to your regularly scheduled pretty pictures and frivolity.