Is your hospital ready?

A recent survey by National Nurses United indicated that more than half of the 400 nurses surveyed weren’t confident that their hospitals could deal with an Ebola patient. The survey has certainly touched a nerve with nurses who will be on the front lines of caring for any patient with suspected or diagnosed Ebola.

And with two health care workers testing positive for Ebola, the stakes are high and the need for resolution and for action is immediate. Many nurse leaders have spoken out about Ebola preparedness, and each hospital offers varying stages of readiness. But as a nurse in your own setting, what do you think? Is your hospital ready if a potential Ebola patent walked into your ER or your clinic tomorrow?

If you have high confidence, you likely feel that your hospital is taking precautions and offering training and gear to protect staff. But what if you aren’t so sure?

In short, don’t be afraid to speak up and don’t delay in speaking up.

Part of professional practice is based in knowledge and practicing in accordance with evidence-based guidelines,” says Tara Tehan, MSN, MBA, RN, NE-BC, SCRN, and president of the American Nurses Association Massachusetts. “Some nurses are looking at organizations and looking at gaps in preparedness.”

Nurses have a first-hand view of changing patterns among patient populations, so they are often among the first to spot areas that need improvements or that could pose a safety or health risk in cases like Ebola. As part of an interdisciplinary team, nurses should look at how the whole response effort would work.

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Nurses should make suggestions where they see gaps,” says Tehan. If there are missing elements of policy, equipment, or education, bring that forward, she says.

Because the Ebola situation is so new, people are in the process of becoming fully prepared. “Nurses play an important role in this,” says Tehan, noting nurses unique role. Patients trust nurses and may share information with them that they may not share with the rest of the team. Because of that, nurses know what the patients know and are feeling, and they know what they are experiencing.

Several recent surveys have shown that nurses are seeing gaps in preparedness and the gaps are potentially dangerous. Many reports have focused on having access to sufficient quantities of protective gear, but nurses also want education. For example, not only do you need access to the protective gear, but you need to know how to put it on and take it off as well.

As an advocate for their own safety and for patients’ health, nurses should bring attention to areas where they see critical responses lacking.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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