PEF nurse prepares to treat patients with infectious diseases
By DEBORAH A. MILES
In 2014, the Ebola epidemic was the largest in history, affecting multiple countries in West Africa and causing 11,325 deaths. Nine people who contracted the virus travelled to the United States, and two died. Two nurses, who treated the patients, also caught the virus. Fortunately, they were treated and recovered.
Although no new cases have been reported in the U.S., training on how to deal with patients with infectious diseases continues.
“You never really know when a virus or infectious disease will appear, and you have to be prepared,” said Tracey Smith-Bivins, a nurse at Buffalo Psychiatric Center who attended an emerging infectious disease preparedness training in late March.
It was presented by the National Ebola Training and Education Center in Omaha, NE and consisted of several workshops that dealt with topics such as pathogens of concern, infection control measures, protective equipment, waste management, IV lab work, and care of the deceased.
“The training made me more aware of many infectious diseases, not only Ebola. You never know what may present itself at your doorstep. Even in a psychiatric setting, the clients we admit come from more diverse backgrounds and cultures, some who may have picked up something in a foreign country. The infectious diseases we typically see are people who are tuberculosis positive, or have scabies or MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).
“Dealing with psychiatric patients who may have an infectious disease is more challenging, as they may be resistant to the protective gear we have to wear. That may also hold true for patients in a state prison medical unit,” Smith-Bivins said.
One point emphasized at the training was the proper way to wear and remove the protective gear, and not to allow for any rips or tears.
“There is really no room for errors, because this could mean your life,” Smith-Bivins said. “You really have to go over the policy and procedures thoroughly to understand what you have to do. You can’t eliminate any of the steps. It’s all important.”