The 2014 Ebola epidemic was the largest in history and affected several countries in West Africa. In the U.S., on Sept. 30, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the first confirmed case of Ebola in a man who sought treatment at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Two registered nurses also contracted the virus after providing care for the Ebola patient, who died of the disease in Oct. 2014.
The emergence of the Ebola virus in the U.S. sparked widespread media coverage and a national dialogue about preparedness and response. Consequently, many lessons were learned from the 2014 outbreak and health care professionals should feel more prepared to handle Ebola and other infectious diseases.
Statement on Ebola and Nurse Preparedness
Information, Resources, and How You Can Help
The Nebraska Nurses Association continues to monitor the global health crisis of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). We take an active role in addressing the safety needs of our nurses and their patients. As Ebola has spread to the United States, the Nebraska Nurses Association has reached out to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Nebraska Department of Health and Senior Services for guidance. The Nebraska Nurses Association will continue to communicate with these agencies, as well as other nursing associations, the Nebraska Hospital Association, and the Nebraska State Medical Association as the situation progresses.
“Nurses serve on the front lines of health care, and it is imperative that they and all health care workers be guaranteed safe working environments, including proper personal protective equipment (PPE), current training in safety protocols, and Ebola preparedness,” said Midwest Multistate Division Director of ANA, Jill Kliethermes, MSN, RN, FNP-BC. “Nurses must feel safe and prepared when dealing with any potential Ebola cases.”
Recently, the first case of Ebola in the United States was diagnosed in a man who traveled from West Africa to Dallas, Texas. Sadly, this patient passed away on Oct. 8, 2014. Subsequently, two nurses who were caring for this patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas have been diagnosed with Ebola. Officials at the hospital have since acknowledged that a lack of clarity, protocols, and guidance contributed to a critical lapse in safety for these nurses and health care workers.
The Nebraska Nurses Association joins with the American Nurses Association (ANA) in urging the CDC to provide clear standards and guidelines that nurses and health care workers can follow to ensure their safety and the highest quality of care for patients. The Nebraska Nurses Association and ANA urge the CDC to adopt PPE standards that have been demonstrated to provide effective protection for nurses and health care workers in the clinical setting when caring for Ebola patients, such as those used by Doctors Without Borders and Emory University. CDC officials plan to release revised PPE guidelines soon. The Nebraska Nurses Association and the ANA will review these guidelines and provide additional feedback, if necessary.
While we unequivocally believe that nurses are obligated to care for patients in a nondiscriminatory manner, with respect for all individuals, we also recognize that there are limits to the risk of personal harm nurses can be expected to accept as an ethical duty. The Nebraska Nurses Association urges nurses to take our Ebola Preparedness Survey and speak up if they feel their facilities are underprepared to treat any patient. Nurses should have the right to refuse an assignment if they do not feel adequately prepared or do not have the necessary equipment to care for Ebola patients.
The Nebraska Nurses Association joins with ANA in urging nurses to review infectious disease guidelines and checklists to ensure they understand Ebola, how it is transmitted, and what precautions are necessary to protect themselves, their patients, and the public.
A multitude of resources are available from the CDC and other health care organizations:
- CDC: Ebola – Information for Healthcare Workers and Settings
- CDC Webinar: Preparing for Ebola: What US Hospitals Can Learn from Emory Healthcare and Nebraska Medical Center
- ANA: Ebola Information
- Public Health Emergency (PHE) Webinar: Ebola Preparedness for the US Healthcare System
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH): Ebola Information
- World Health Organization: Ebola: Protective Measures for Medical Staff