Dear NENA Members,
Ebola is on the minds of all health care workers. You can hardly listen to the radio, go online, or turn on the television without being bombarded with news and mounting statistics regarding the deadly Ebola outbreak. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), EVD has killed almost 4500 people worldwide (as of October 15, 2014).
Ebola is a serious, often fatal virus transmitted through direct contact with blood or body fluids/substances (e.g. urine, feces, emesis or through exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected blood or body fluids.
Emergency nurses, which including the National Emergency Nurses Association (NENA) members, are highly trained and uniquely positioned to safely triage patients with infectious diseases. Infection control policies and procedures are utilized on a daily basis in emergency care settings, and emergency nurses are required to know how to safely care for infectious disease patients.
Due to the recent Ebola patients in North America, there is heightened public awareness surrounding the disease. Emergency nurses are trained to recognize symptoms and deliver safe care to all suspected infected patients, whether it is Ebola, Tuberculosis, Meningitis or any other infectious disease. It is standard practice for emergency nurses to take a correct history at triage, collaborate with and communicate to all members of the healthcare team.
NENA believes that emergency nurses have the knowledge and critical thinking skills to look after ANY infectious disease in which they come in contact with. The biological hazard of EVD is different from the typical infectious diseases we have been trained for therefore education, including hands-on training and PPE designed for a high level hazard will be necessary to care for suspected EVD patients.
NENA believes that Emergency Nurses need to ensure that they have been trained sufficiently on donning and doffing of PPE to ensure their safety when encountering virulent organisms such as Ebola.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has created a Checklist for Patients Being Evaluated for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the United States, posted on their website. All healthcare providers need to have access to the tools and resources to keep them, our patients and the public safe.
NENA encourages all Emergency Nurses to be proactive instead of reactive and use the resources that are available to them and have been developed to assist with screening and detection of the signs, symptoms and travel history consistent with exposure to Ebola. Our front line hospitals and clinics do have good training sessions, especially after our experience with SARS, in dealing with infectious disease prevention
Thank you for your dedication to providing safe, quality care to all of our patients.
Janet Calnan RN ENC(C) BSN, NENA President