By ERIC FREEDMAN
Capital News Service
LANSING – The spread of Ebola to health care workers in the United States and the attack of enterovirus D68 among American children are drawing headlines, but nursing experts say both developments highlight the need for up-to-date training and preparation of nurses and hospitals for more than a single crisis.
The broader question is improving quality and safety for both nurses and patients., said Donald Wasserman, the communications manager at the Michigan Center for Nursing in Okemos. The nonprofit center is a health-promotion organization for nurses and other health care professionals they work with.
“One of our big initiatives is advancing nursing education and achieving a’ triple aim’ goal, Wasserman said: reduce health costs, improve the outcome for patients and enhance the health of “the community as a whole.”
Meanwhile, nursing programs across the state are incorporating the latest developments and treatments in what they teach their students.
“We live in a world today where new diseases can come up,” said Karen Allen, director of Andrew University’s School of Nursing in Berrien Springs.
For example, an instructor is incorporating new information about enterovirus D68, a virus that causes serious respiratory illness among children into students’ current pediatric rotation, Allen said. “The exciding thing is that because the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the world are on top of it, we don’t have to wait for a textbook to come out.”
“A few years ago when SARS came out, we did the same thing with our students,” she said, referring to the viral Severe Acute Respiratory Disease: “This is a new disease. These are the precautions.”
Northern Michigan University is taking a similar approach in preparing future nurses and advanced nurses to treat patients, said Nanci Gasiewicz, the associate dean and director of the School of Nursing.
Instructors in its classes about community nursing include the latest documentation, not only on Ebola but flu outbreaks. They’ll keep the current affairs in the classroom so studtns are abreast of what the latest news is and the treatment and the incidence of the disease,” Gasiewicz said.
“Fortunately, we’re able to study it with the disease still not in the area, she said. “It’s always good to be able to have some application, some direct application,” adding, “The training and the knowledge without the crisis would be nice.”
So far, two nurses who treated Liberian Ebola patient Thomas Edward Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas have been diagnosed with the virus. Duncan died Oct. 8.
Nurses and their unions across the country are accusing hospitals of inadequate protocols, training and protective equipment for nurses who treat suspected and confirmed Ebola patients.
For example, John Armelagos, president of the Michigan Nurses Association, said “It is imperative that Michigan leaders use lessons from what happened in Texas to better protect nurses and prevent the spread of this life-threatening disease here.
“Unfortunately, we are hearing from our nurses that many Michigan hospitals are not prepared to deal with Ebola,” said Armelagos, a registered nurse who works for the Unviersity of Michigan Health System.
His comments mirror those of National Nurses United, the country’s largest union of registered nurses, which reported that more than 80 percent of the1,900 nurses it surveyed said they hadn’t received adequate training about Ebola and complained about insufficient protective supplies and policies for handling patients who may be infected.
“There is no standard short of optimal in protective equipment and hands-on-training that is acceptable,” said union Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro.
The Michigan Hospital Association said its approximately 130 members are working to educate and train their employees on the basis of federal government information from CDC, the Department of Health and Human Services, CDC and the National Institutes of Health.
Ebola “didn’t exist in the United States a few months ago,” said Laura Wotruba, the association’s director of public affairs. “Suddenly we’re dealing with it.
“It’s an emerging issue. It requires diligent work on the part of our members,” Wotruba said.
In addition, Gov. Rick Snyder said state agencies and organizations such as the Department of Community Health, State Police and Michigan Association for Local Public Health are being vigilant.
“If a case is found, I am confident that the health care system and our public health infrastructure are ready to effectively respond,” he said.
As for future nurses, the Ebola crisis doesn’t seem to deter students from pursuing a career in the field, according to Allen of Andrews and Gasiewicz of Northern Michigan.
Gasiewicz said, “Anyone can contract Ebola. You don’t have to be a health care worker.”
And Allen said, “Students are not afraid because we’re processing it with them, we’re educating them. At the same time, patients still need care.
“We’re not in a profession where we can say, ‘We don’t do SARs, we don’t do Ebola,” she said.
By ERIC FREEDMAN