Stevie's EN diary: Ebola – in PPE we trust…

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In this diary entry, new grad EN Stevie wants to talk about Ebola.

Let’s talk about Ebola, because quite frankly I don’t think we are talking about it enough. And if you can’t detect the sarcasm dripping all over that sentence, then perhaps you should think about reading a different blog post about Ebola. If you’re not on duty, you could play an Ebola drinking game whilst reading this blog post about Ebola.

The tea room chatter has lately been all about Ebola. Would you work with a patient with Ebola? The answer for me, without having to think about it, is yes. With the right training and PPE, yes. Unquestioningly, yes. Why? Because I am a nurse. It is my job. I don’t think you should get to pick or choose who you work with. I work with patients with HIV and Hep C. I work with patients from the local prison. I would work with a patient with Ebola. I use the appropriate PPE. Each patient is a cesspit of germs. In PPE I trust.

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The doctors who contracted Ebola seem to be hailed as heroes, whereas the nurse in Spain or the nurses in the USA, they must have done something wrong, yes? They must have made a mistake. Or was it the PPE? Or hospital policies and procedures? Who knows? I know I think they were incredibly brave. They knew the risks and they cared for their patients anyway, because that is what we do.

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Is Australia doing enough to help fight Ebola overseas? Money is all well and good, but as we keep hearing, what is really needed are ‘boots on the ground’. We seem happy enough to jump into a war, but a ‘health crisis’, not so much. Of course there are risks associated with sending personnel to Africa, but other countries are managing. Why can’t we?

Do you actually give a monkey’s about Ebola? Or are you all Ebola-ed out? There is so much information flying around, it’s hard to know what to listen to. It’s hard to know what to trust.

So far in Australia we have no confirmed cases of Ebola, but we have had several cases of ‘OMG, they might have Ebola’ and the associated media frenzy. The nurse in Cairns who was named and whose picture was plastered across the world’s media turned out not to have Ebola. Patient confidentiality flies out the window, it seems, in the face of ‘public interest’.

Is your hospital ready? Are you ready? Do we need to be ready? Really? I think there is a fine line between ‘be prepared’ and blind panic. Fortunately I think our hospital, well our unit at least, is going for ‘be prepared’. The infection control department are like doomsday preppers who have been told the end of the world is nigh. I joke, but thanks to their hard work, if we actually did have a patient with Ebola we would have three staff to each patient and we are ready to work with them in a way that would keep us and everyone else ‘safe’.

Our unit and ICU have been designated as the areas where patients with Ebola will be treated. As well as the Ebola in-services we’ve already had, a team of experienced nursing staff from across the hospital (RNs/midwives and ENs but no grad year nurses or junior staff – so that’s me out) will have additional intensive training. Our hospital won’t make you work with someone who has Ebola. They have been very clear about that. We have an Ebola Policy tome. Personally I think it could do with the words ‘DON’T PANIC’ inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover, but it’s a much needed document.

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It’s a much needed document because when you don’t have the right policies and procedures and you don’t have the right education and you don’t have the right practical training and you don’t have the right equipment, the risk of something going wrong, the risk of contracting Ebola – or anything else for that matter – sky rockets. Nursing is all about assessing risk and risk management. You can’t always eliminate risk, but you can to some extent manage it.

In PPE we trust…

Previously in Stevie’s EN diary:

Not ‘just’ an enrolled nurse

Popping my nursing cherry

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