By Carly Dell
In the Future of Nursing report published by the Institute of Medicine, it is recommended that health care facilities throughout the United States increase the proportion of nurses with a BSN to 80 percent and double the number of nurses with a DNP by the year 2020. Research shows that nurses who are prepared at baccalaureate and graduate degree levels are linked to lower readmission rates, shorter lengths of patient stay, and lower mortality rates in health care facilities.
What does the job market look like for RNs who are looking to advance their careers?
We tackle this question in our latest infographic, “Career Paths for RNs,” where we look in-depth at the three higher education paths RNs can choose from to advance their careers — Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Master of Science in Nursing, and Doctor of Nursing Practice.
For each career path, we outline the various in-demand specialties, salaries, and job outlook.
By Melissa Wirkus
“HIT has been shown to help some patients, but it has also been shown to perhaps provide some complications in care, or less than adequate care, when messages are not received, when messages are interrupted or when messages are routed to the inappropriate person,” explained Milisa Manojlovich, PhD, RN, CCRN, associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing (UMSN) and member of U-M’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.
Manojlovich will serve as the primary investigator on a new $1.6 million grant from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) that will focus on health IT’s effects on nurse–physician communication. Manojlovich and her co-investigators will look at how communication technologies make it easier or harder for doctors and nurses to communicate with each other. They hope their research will identify the optimal way to support effective communication while fostering improved and positive interdisciplinary team-based care.
Until the research is completed, Manojlovich offers some simple procedures clinicians can begin to adopt right now to help alleviate common problems with digital communication:
1. Use multiple forms of technology
Just like there is more than one way to treat a cold, there is more than one way to communicate electronically. Utilizing multiple forms of technology to communicate important information, or sometimes even reverting back to the “old-fashioned” ways of making a phone call or talking in person, can help ensure the receipt of a message in an environment that is often inundated.
“One of the things we are going to investigate is this idea of matching the message to the medium,” Manojlovich said. “So depending on the message that you want to send, you will identify what is the best medium to send that message.”
Using the current Ebola situation in Texas as an example, Manojlovich explained that using multiple forms of technology as a back-up to solely documenting the information in the EHR system could have mitigated the breakdown in communication that occurred. “Although the clinician did her job by entering the information into the EHR, she maybe should have texted or emailed the physician with the information or found someone to talk to in person about the situation. What we are trying to do with this study is see if there is another way that messages like this could have been transmitted better.”
2. Include the whole message
Reducing fragmented messages and increasing the aggregation of key data and information in communications may be one of the most critical pieces to improving communication between nurses and physicians. Manojlovich has been passionate about nurse–physician communication throughout her career and has conducted several previous studies on communication technologies.
“What we’ve noticed, for example, is that nurses will sometimes use the same form of communication over and over again. In one of the studies we actually watched a nurse page the same physician three times with the same question within an hour period.”
The physician did not answer any of the messages, and Manojlovich concluded it was because the pages were missing critical components of information related to the patient’s care plan. Increasing the frequency of communications can be beneficial, but only if the entire message and all important facets of information are relayed.
“If you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten. If you don’t alter or change the communication technology you are using, you are going to get the same results,” she added.
3. Incorporate a team-based approach
“At a really high level the problem is that a lot of these computer and electronic health record technologies are built with individuals in mind,” Manojlovich said. “When you talk about care process and team processes, that requires more interaction than the technologies are currently able to give us. The computer technologies are designed for individual use, but health care is based on the interaction of many different disciplines.”
Infusing this collaborative mindset into the “siloed” technology realm will undoubtedly help to improve the communication problems between providers and clinicians at all levels and all practice settings--which is especially important in today’s environment of co-morbidities and coordinating care.
Nurses play a critical role in improving communication as frontline care providers. “Nurses are the 24-hour surveillance system for hospitalized patients. It is our job to do that monitoring and surveillance and to let physicians know when something comes up.”
“I believe that for quality patient care, a patient needs input from all disciplines; from doctors, nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists--everyone,” Manojlovich said. “We are being trained separately and each discipline has a different knowledge base, and these differences make it difficult for us to understand each other. Developing mutual understanding is really important because when we have that mutual understanding I think outcomes are better and it can be argued that the quality of care is better when you have everyone providing input.”
BY CHIARA SOTTILE
Twice a day, Michele Forth drives 45 miles to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to visit her 4-month-old baby she affectionately calls "Miss Madilyn." She is a 6-pound fighter in pink pajamas — but to her family and the nurses who care for her day and night, she is so much more.
"Hi, pumpkin! You just waking up?" Forth coos. Nurse Adrianna "Adri" Zimmerman, wearing purple scrubs and a warm smile, hands Madilyn to her father who is quickly surrounded by his wife and two young sons.
"She fights harder than any adult that I know, let alone a 6-pound baby," says father Shane Forth, softly stroking Madilyn's delicate left foot in his hand.
It was in that spirit that the nurses chose to see Madilyn, one of nearly 100 babies cared for in the NICU at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta every day. "We always talk about how feisty this one is or how sweet this one is,” Zimmerman says.
That bedside chatting took on a whole new life with a photo series called "From the NICU to the Moon" that imagines what the babies dream about as they wiggle and smile in their sleep, and what they might become someday. It also aims to educate parents about safe sleep for newborns.
The nurses and hospital communications team imagined Madilyn as a physician, surrounded by stethoscopes and Band-Aids. The photo series also features Brentley, the future astronaut, Arianna, the future chef, Sofia the ballerina, and Carolina as an Olympian.
Madilyn was born two months early and has what is called vacterl association (a collection of birth defects), resulting in multiple surgeries and months in the NICU. Zimmerman remembers Madilyn's arrival in the NICU like it was her own child.
"I think she's strong and she's definitely got the will to see whatever it is through to the end, so, if that happens to be med school in a few years, I would not be surprised," says Zimmerman. "It's funny how much personality these babies have."
And Mom is happy with the depiction. "Even though Miss Madilyn does have a whole bunch of obstacles ahead of her right now," she says, "she can do amazing things and she can aspire to be anything that she wants to be."
Carolina, the tiny Olympian, is “a strong-willed patient who has a lot of heart and she is letting nothing hold her back," says Jessica Wright, a NICU Nurse with 10 years of experience. "Just because they were born early doesn't mean they cannot do whatever they want when they grow up in life."
True to her athletic depiction, Carolina is hardly ever still in her crib. Gazing up at the green alligator and orange lion of her soother, Carolina playfully kicks her feet back and forth, her bright eyes fixed on Nurse Wright. "What are you thinking about?" Wright asks, her hand on Carolina's blue and pink ensemble, "You tell 'em about it, wiggle worm."
Sofia, the ballerina in the photo series, is also on the move. Since she was photographed, Sofia was able to leave the NICU and go home with her parents, Fred and Dawnyale "Dawny" Hill.
In the pale orange light of an Atlanta sunset, Fred and Dawny cradle their daughter in their arms on the family's front porch. It's Sofia's first time outside on the porch and her longest stint outside in the evening since she went home. "What do you think? What do you think? Hill asks his daughter, holding her hand. "Interesting, huh?"
Sofia spent 157 days, 20 hours, and 6 total minutes in NICUs. Respiratory and reflux issues keep this 5 1/2-month-old on an oxygen tank and feeding tube.
"She has some accessories, as we like to refer to them as," says Mr. Hill, about the oxygen tank and tubes. "They kind of travel with her."
But in the "NICU to the Moon" photos, Sofia left all the tubes behind for the stage and curtains. "It made her seem normal. The way the pictures kind of erased all of the cords. All of the tubes," says Hill of his daughter. "I saw the innocence of Sofia as opposed to my child in the NICU."
"She's got a family full of dancers on both sides so we definitely are excited to see Miss Sofia the ballerina come about," Dawny says with a laugh. "She'll be dancing around."
But for now, the Hills cherish moments with Sofia at home, like their evening bedtime routine. Mr. Hill carries Sofia on his chest while Dawny wheels the oxygen tank and other cords towards the bedroom. "Good holding your head, Sofia. Look at you," applauds Mrs. Hill.
As they gently place her on her back in her crib, Sofia rubs her eyes.
"Hey, you had a good day. You had a good day, right? Are you sleepy?" asks her father, the machine beeping and sighing next to the crib.
"Ready? Time to pray," Mr. Hill says, kneeling over the crib next to his wife. They pray for every organ in their daughter's body and give thanks to the doctors who helped bring her home.
"We will be keeping up our bedtime routine," Mrs. Hill says, looking at her husband. "Until she can start saying her prayers," he answers.
"Any child that has to go through that much opposition from day one, there's got to be something great for them to accomplish out of life, so my hope is that she accomplishes exactly what she was sent here to do," Mr. Hill says.
And with that, the bedroom light switches off and one more former NICU baby gets to dream of her future in her own crib.
By Steven Reinberg
Residents of the southern United States may be at risk for a parasitic infection that can lead to severe heart disease and death, three new studies suggest.
Chagas disease, which is transmitted by "kissing bugs" that feed on the faces of humans at night, was once thought limited to Mexico, Central America and South America.
That's no longer the case, the new research shows.
"We are finding new evidence that locally acquired human transmission is occurring in Texas," said Melissa Nolan Garcia, a research associate at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the lead author of two of the three studies.
Garcia is concerned that the number of infected people in the United States is growing and far exceeds the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's estimate of 300,000.
In one pilot study, her team looked at 17 blood donors in Texas who tested positive for the parasite that causes Chagas disease.
"We were surprised to find that 36 percent had evidence of being a locally acquired case," she said. "Additionally, 41 percent of this presumably healthy blood donor population had heart abnormalities consistent with Chagas cardiac disease."
The CDC, however, still believes most people with the disease in the United States were infected in Mexico, Central and South America, said Dr. Susan Montgomery, of the agency's parasitic diseases branch.
"There have been a few reports of people becoming infected with these bugs here in the United States," she said. "We don't know how often that is happening because there may be cases that are undiagnosed, since many doctors would not think to test their patients for this disease. However, we believe the risk of infection is very low."
Maybe so, but kissing bugs -- blood-sucking insects called triatomine bugs -- are found across the lower half of the United States, according to the CDC. The insects feed on animals and people at night.
The feces of infected bugs contains the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which can enter the body through breaks in the skin. Chagas disease can also be transmitted through blood.
It's a silent killer, Garcia said. People don't feel sick, so they don't seek care, but it causes heart disease in about 30 percent of those who get infected, she said.
In another study, Garcia's team collected 40 insects in 11 Texas counties. They found that 73 percent carried the parasite and half of those had bitten humans as well as other animals, such as dogs, rabbits and raccoons.
A third study found that most people infected with Chagas aren't treated.
For that project, Dr. Jennifer Manne-Goehler, a clinical fellow at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, collected data on nearly 2,000 people whose blood tested positive for Chagas.
Her team found that only 422 doses of medication for the infection were given by the CDC from 2007 to 2013. "This highlights an enormous treatment gap," Manne-Goehler said in a news release.
The findings of all three studies, published recently in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, were to be presented Tuesday in New Orleans at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
Symptoms of Chagas can range from none to severe with fever, fatigue, body aches and serious cardiac and intestinal complications.
"Physicians should consider Chagas when patients have swelling and enlargement of the heart not caused by high blood pressure, diabetes or other causes, even if they do not have a history of travel," Garcia said.
However, the two treatments for this disease are "only available [in the United States] via an investigative drug protocol regulated by the CDC," Garcia said. They are not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Efforts are under way to develop other treatments for Chagas disease, Montgomery said.
"Several groups have made some exciting progress in drug development," she said, "but none have reached the point where they can be used to treat patients in regular clinical practice."
By Alana Horowitz
Brittany Maynard, the Oregon woman who had become an outspoken advocate for patients' rights following her terminal cancer diagnosis, died on Saturday, the Oregonian reported. She was 29.
"Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love," she wrote in a Facebook post, according to People. "Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness... the world is a beautiful place, travel has been my greatest teacher, my close friends and folks are the greatest givers... goodbye world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward!"
Earlier this year, Maynard learned that she was suffering from an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma and had only six months to live. After hearing what the disease would to her body in its final stages, she decided that she wanted to die on her own terms.
Maynard and her family, including her husband Dan Diaz and her mother Debbie Ziegler, moved to Oregon,whose Death With Dignity Act has allowed hundreds of terminally ill people to end their lives by taking a medication prescribed by doctors. She picked November 1st as the day she wanted to die because it was after her husband's late October birthday.
Since then, Maynard had become a champion for the law and for patients in her situation, working with the group Compassion and Choices.
"I am not suicidal," she wrote in a blog post for CNN.com. "I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms."
On Wednesday, Maynard released a new video that suggested that she might consider postponing her death.
"If November 2nd comes along and I've passed, I hope my family is still proud of me and the choices I've made. If November 2nd comes along and I'm still alive, I know that we'll still be moving forward as a family out of love for each other, and that decision will come later."
Maynard recently crossed the last item off her bucket list: a trip to the Grand Canyon. Before she became ill, Maynard was an active traveler and adventurer who lived in Southwest Asia for a year and once climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.
By Eun Kyung Kim
James Wathen had stopped eating. Frail and barely able to speak, the 73-year-old whispered to a health care worker that he missed his dog, a one-eyed Chihuahua he hadn't seen since paramedics whisked him away to a Kentucky hospital weeks earlier.
So a team of nurses hustled to learn the fate of Wathen's beloved pet, Bubba, hoping a reunion might provide some peace and comfort to their heartbroken and deteriorating patient — even if arranging one meant bending ahospital rule against pets.
A series of phone calls eventually led the nurses to the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter, where Bubba was taken and placed with a foster family, said Mary-Ann Smyth, president of the non-profit facility.
Coincidentally, Bubba had also recently fallen ill.
"The dog quit eating a week ago, which is very strange," Smyth told TODAY.com. "The dog didn’t know where James was and James didn't know where the dog was and believe it or not, they both stopped eating at about the same time."
Plans were made to bring the little pooch, who lacked his bottom row of teeth along with his right eye, to the hospital over the weekend.
“He was so sad at first. We had him wrapped in a baby blanket and he was shivering,” Smyth said. “The minute we got about 20 steps from this guy’s room — I kid you not — his little head went up. His eyes got real bright and he was like a different dog.”
She says a similar transformation took place in Wathen during his roughly 30-minute hospital reunion Saturday with Bubba.
"They didn’t think James was going to make it," she recalled being told during her initial visit to the hospital. “I was 10 feet from his bed and you could barely understand him because he was so hard to hear. The nurse had to lean up right against his face to hear what he was saying."
But he slowly perked up as his dog snuggled with him on his bed. By the time Bubba returned for a second visit Tuesday, visible changes were noticeable in both man and his best friend.
"He’s done a complete turnaround. He's speaking, he's sitting up, he’s eating. He doesn't look like the same guy," said Smyth, who didn't attend the second visit but saw Wathen in footage recorded by the shelter's director. "And the dog is eating and doing better now, too."
Baptist Health Corbin, the hospital treating Wathen, did not return repeated messages left by TODAY.com seeking comment.
But nurse Kimberly Probus told WKYT-TV a team of nurses went looking for Bubba after "one of our social workers realized it was mourning the loss of the dog that was making our patient even worse and emotionally unhealthy."
Smyth said she's not surprised at the healing power pets provide their owners.
"I hope this story will show to people the tremendous difference that animals can make in people’s lives," she said. She also hopes it will encourage people to think about rescuing pets from shelters like hers, which is rebuilding its facility after its previous home burned down in a fire last November.
“One of the biggest problems we face is the way some people think of animals. People just don’t see animals as creatures and beings, they see them as property,” she said. “I hope people understand they’re not 'its,' they’re 'beings.'”
By JESSICA FIRGER
When Donna Tookes learned she had breast cancer last winter, the 59-year-old thought she had no choice but to accept one of the most dreaded side-effects of chemotherapy: losing her mane of silver hair, a feature that strangers young and old frequently stopped to admire.
"I had resigned myself," Tookes told CBS News. "I had purchased an array of scarves, about 10. And I actually practiced tying them."
Tookes was diagnosed with breast cancer in January after her annual mammogram, when her doctors detected some mild calcifications in her right breast. These clusters of white flecks visible on her scan indicated there might be something seriously wrong. After a few subsequent tests, Tookes learned she had HER2 breast cancer, an especially aggressive form that can be difficult to treat. Though her doctors caught the cancer early, they wanted to be certain it would never return, which meant a unilateral mastectomy followed by 12 rounds of punishing chemotherapy.
"You have a consultation before you start chemotherapy," said Tookes, who lives with her husband and children in Stamford, Connecticut, and has worked for more than three decades as a flight attendant. "I was told I would lose my hair. And then the nurse assured me, she told me 'you're beautiful,' and that I was one of the only ones who could carry the bald look because I have that bone structure."
But her family could see that losing her hair would take a serious toll on her psyche. Tookes had heard about some treatment in Europe that helps prevent chemo-related hair loss, though she didn't know many details. Secretly, her husband began to conduct research. He wrote to friends in Sweden, who were able to obtain information about a new and innovative therapy called a scalp cooling cap. He soon found out that Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City was involved in a clinical trial on the device, known as the DigniCap System, which is worn by a patient during chemotherapy transfusions.
The snug cap is secured onto a patient's head each time she undergoes chemotherapy. It chills the scalp down to 5 degrees Celsius so that the blood vessels surrounding the hair roots contract, meaning that less of the toxins from chemo enter the hair follicle. This minimizes -- and in some cases completely stops -- a patient's hair from falling out.
At first, Tookes was slightly skeptical, but her family finally convinced her to move her cancer treatment from her hospital in Connecticut to Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City.
Dr. Paula Klein, assistant professor of medicine, hematology and medical oncology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and principal investigator for the clinical trial, told CBS News the device has been effective at limiting hair loss in nearly all of her patients enrolled.
"Unfortunately, in breast cancer the two most active agents are associated with significant hair loss," said Klein. "For many women with early stage breast cancer, they are getting chemotherapy for prevention of recurrence."
Klein said overall, women who use the cap lose just 25 percent of their hair. There are some patients who lose more and a lucky handful who lost no hair at all.
The clinical trial is now in its final phase. The company behind the cap, Dignitana, will be submitting results to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by the end of November, and hope to win FDA approval for the cap in 2015.
For women struggling through a difficult medical ordeal, the benefit is significant. Research published in 2008 in the journal Psycho-Oncology looked at 38 existing studies on breast cancer treatment and quality of life issues, and found hair loss consistently ranked the most troubling side effect of treatment for women. "Significant alopecia [hair loss] is problematic," said Klein. "Every time you look in the mirror, you remember you're getting cancer treatment."
Many breast cancer survivors report that even when their hair finally grows back after chemotherapy it is often different in color or texture than the hair they had before, due to the period of time it takes the hair follicles to recover from the damage caused by the drugs.
Moreover, the feelings associated with hair loss impact nearly every aspect of a breast cancer patient's life -- from her self-image and sexuality to whether or not she is comfortable at work or even walking into the supermarket to buy a quart of milk.
When she first prepared for treatment, Tookes worried how people would react to her appearance if she lost all of her hair. But it didn't happen. Seven weeks into chemo, she finally felt confident enough to return the unused wardrobe of scarves. She still had a full head of hair. Because the cooling therapy was used only on her scalp, Tookes did still lose her eyebrows and "everything south of there."
Tookes is now cancer-free and says the therapy helped her stay optimistic about her prognosis. "My mother used to say, you just comb your hair and get yourself together and you'll get through hard times," she said.
By MIKE STOBBE
For more than two months, health officials have been struggling to understand the size of a national wave of severe respiratory illnesses caused by an unusual virus. This week, they expect the wave to start looking a whole lot bigger.
But that's because a new test will be speeding through a backlog of cases. Starting Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is using a new test to help the agency process four or five times more specimens per day that it has been.
The test is a yes/no check for enterovirus 68, which since August has been fingered as the cause of hundreds of asthma-like respiratory illnesses in children — some so severe the patients needed a breathing machine. The virus is being investigated as a cause of at least 6 deaths.
It will largely replace a test which can distinguish a number of viruses, but has a much longer turnaround.
The result? Instead of national case counts growing by around 30 a day, they're expected to jump to 90 or more.
But for at least a week or two, the anticipated flood of new numbers will reflect what was seen in the backlog of about 1,000 specimens from September. The numbers will not show what's been happening more recently, noted Mark Pallansch, director of the CDC's division of viral diseases.
Enterovirus 68 is one of a pack of viruses that spread around the country every year around the start of school, generally causing cold-like illnesses. Those viruses tend to wane after September, and some experts think that's what's been happening.
One of the places hardest hit by the enterovirus 68 wave was Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. The specialized pediatric hospital was flooded with cases of wheezing, very sick children in August, hitting a peak of nearly 300 in the last week of the month.
But that kind of patient traffic has steadily declined since mid-September, said Dr. Jason Newland, a pediatric infectious diseases physician there.
"Now it's settled down" to near-normal levels, Newland said. Given the seasonality of the virus, "it makes sense it would kind of be going away," he added.
The germ was first identified in the U.S. in 1962, and small numbers of cases have been regularly reported since 1987. Because it's not routinely tested for, it may have spread widely in previous years without being identified in people who just seemed to have a cold, health officials have said.
But some viruses seem to surge in multi-year cycles, and it's possible that enterovirus surged this year for the first time in quite a while. If that's true, it may have had an unusually harsh impact because there were a large number of children who had never been infected with it before and never acquired immunity, Newland said.
Whatever the reason, the virus gained national attention in August when hospitals in Kansas City and Chicago saw severe breathing illnesses in kids in numbers they never see at that time of year.
Health officials began finding enterovirus 68. The CDC, in Atlanta, has been receiving specimens from severely ill children all over the country and doing about 80 percent of the testing for the virus. The test has been used for disease surveillance, but not treatment. Doctors give over-the-counter medicines for milder cases, and provide oxygen or other supportive care for more severe ones.
The CDC has been diagnosing enterovirus 68 in roughly half of the specimens sent in, Pallansch said. Others have been diagnosed with an assortment of other respiratory germs.
As of Friday, lab tests by the CDC have confirmed illness caused by the germ in 691 people in 46 states and the District of Columbia. The CDC is expected to post new numbers Tuesday and Wednesday.
Aside from the CDC, labs in California, Indiana, Minnesota and New York also have been doing enterovirus testing and contributing to the national count. It hasn't been determined if or when the states will begin using the new test, which was developed by a CDC team led by Allan Nix.
Meanwhile, the virus also is being eyed as possible factor in muscle weakness and paralysis in at least 27 children and adults in a dozen states. That includes at least 10 in the Denver area, and a cluster of three seen at Children's Mercy, Newland said.
By Dan Munro
Released on Friday, the survey of 700 Registered Nurses at over 250 hospitals in 31 states included some sobering preliminary results in terms of hospital policies for patients who present with potentially infectious diseases like Ebola.
- 80% say their hospital has not communicated to them any policy regarding potential admission of patients infected by Ebola
- 87% say their hospital has not provided education on Ebola with the ability for the nurses to interact and ask questions
- One-third say their hospital has insufficient supplies of eye protection (face shields or side shields with goggles) and fluid resistant/impermeable gowns
- Nearly 40% say their hospital does not have plans to equip isolation rooms with plastic covered mattresses and pillows and discard all linens after use, less than 10 percent said they were aware their hospital does have such a plan in place
- More than 60% say their hospital fails to reduce the number of patients they must care for to accommodate caring for an “isolation” patient
National Nurses United (NNU) started the survey several weeks ago and released the preliminary results last Friday (here). The NNU has close to 185,000 members in every state and is the largest union of registered nurses in the U.S.
The release of the survey coincided with Friday’s swirling controversy on how the hospital in Dallas mishandled America’s first case of Ebola. The patient ‒ Thomas E. Duncan ‒ was treated and released with antibiotics even though the hospital staff knew of his recent travel from Liberia ‒ now the epicenter of this Ebola outbreak.
On October 2, the hospital tried to lay blame of the mishandled Ebola patient on their electronic health record (EHR) software with this statement.
Protocols were followed by both the physician and the nurses. However, we have identified a flaw in the way the physician and nursing portions of our electronic health records (EHR)interacted in this specific case. In our electronic health records, there are separate physician and nursing workflows. Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Statement ‒ October 2 (here)
Within 24 hours, the hospital recanted the statement by saying no, in fact, “there was no flaw.”
The larger issue, of course, is just how ready are the more than 5,700 hospitals around the U.S. when it comes to diagnosing and then treating suspected cases of Ebola. Given the scale of the outbreak (a new case has now been reported in Spain ‒ Europe’s first), it’s very likely we’ll see more cases here in the U.S.
As an RN herself ‒ and Director of NNU’s Registered Nurse Response Network ‒ Bonnie Castillo was blunt.
What our surveys show is a reminder that we do not have a national health care system, but a fragmented collection of private healthcare companies each with their own way of responding. As we have been saying for many months, electronic health records systems can, and do, fail. That’s why we must continue to rely on the professional, clinical judgment and expertise of registered nurses and physicians to interact with patients, as well as uniform systems throughout the U.S. that is essential for responding to pandemics, or potential pandemics, like Ebola. Bonnie Castillo, RN ‒ Director of NNU’s Registered Nurse Response Network (press release)
As a part of their Health Alert Network (HAN), the CDC has been sounding the alarm since July ‒ and released guidelines for evaluating U.S. patients suspected of having Ebola through the HAN on August 1 (HAN #364). As a part of alert #364, the CDC was specific on recommending tests “for all persons with onset of fever within 21 days of having a high‒risk exposure.” Recent travel from Liberia in West Africa should have prompted more questioning around potential high-risk exposure ‒ which was, in fact, the case.
As it was, a relative called the CDC directly to question the original treatment of Mr. Duncan given all the circumstances.
“I feared other people might also get infected if he wasn’t taken care of, and so I called them [the CDC] to ask them why is it a patient that might be suspected of this disease was not getting appropriate care.” Josephus Weeks ‒ Nephew of Dallas Ebola patient to NBC News
The CDC has also activated their Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
The EOC brings together scientists from across CDC to analyze, validate, and efficiently exchange information during a public health emergency and connect with emergency response partners. When activated for a response, the EOC can accommodate up to 230 personnel per 8-hour shift to handle situations ranging from local interests to worldwide incidents.
The EOC coordinates the deployment of CDC staff and the procurement and management of all equipment and supplies that CDC responders may need during their deployment.
In addition, the EOC has the ability to rapidly transport life-supporting medications, samples and specimens, and personnel anywhere in the world around the clock within two hours of notification for domestic missions and six hours for international missions.