Shepherd University’s nursing students have been educated on Ebola through lectures, web links and other resources posted on Sakai on how to protect themselves, how to screen potential patients and who should be notified, according to Dr. Laura Clayton, professor of nursing education.
“We emphasize universal precautions and the use of protective devices if [the students] think they are going to be exposed. We have heightened their awareness and I think they have really stepped up to the plate,” Dr. Sharon Mailey , director and chair of nursing education, said.
Shepherd nursing students do clinical rotations and internship at more than 30 different medical centers, health departments, medical officers and the major hospitals in the tri-state area including Winchester Medical Center in Winchester, Va., Jefferson Medical Center, Ranson, W.Va., Berkeley Medical, Martinsburg, W.Va., Meritus Medical Center outside of Hagerstown, Md. and the Veterans Administration Hospital, Martinsburg, W.Va.
If a patient presents symptoms or would ultimately test positive for Ebola, the local hospital could potentially refer, or transfer, the patient to a larger medical center, according to Mailey.
“I think every hospital has the capacity to diagnose [Ebola] because it is long term, at least three weeks, I’m not sure if every hospital has those types of resources” to treat and manage confirmed cases, Mailey said.
“A lot of hospitals don’t have isolation wards or rooms designated for that,” Clayton said.
The National Institute of Health is one of 10 hospitals rated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as being highly qualified to manage these patients and is the closest medical center to this region that is specialized in dealing with this disease, according to Mailey.
If it is determined that a patient needs to be moved, arrangements can be made fairly quickly when necessary, Clayton said.
“Referral networks become important. I want you to go where people can really treat the specific disease or illness,” Clayton said.
The Los Angeles Times reported on Oct. 16 that CDC Director, Dr. Tom Frieden said “at some point there was a breach in protocol. That breach in protocol resulted in this infection.”
Dr. Frieden had to clarify his comments several days later as nursing staff reported they were not given proper personal protective equipment.
“It is easy to say you breached protocol but what the nurses were wearing as they were caring for the patient was not appropriate as we are finding out now, not necessarily a breach in protocol. It may be we weren’t as prepared as what we should have been as a country,” Clayton said.
“What we were doing and what we are doing now is very different,” Mailey said.
Clayton and Mailey agreed that they are happy to see that both the infected nurses appear to be doing very well.
“I think it is tremendous,” Clayton said.
The news broke late Thursday, Oct. 23, that the fourth American tested positive for Ebola on U.S. soil as the CDC began providing stricter guidelines for healthcare staff.
“Just this week the CDC said what we are doing for health care workers and staff is not enough,” Clayton said.
The CDC released enhanced guidelines last week for healthcare providers treating and managing patients with the deadly disease. According to the CDC website, three major changes are being implemented. Healthcare providers will go through rigorous and repeat training on donning and doffing the personal protective equipment. To assure this, trained monitors will be added to watch providers during training and during actual events.
Another change is no skin will be exposed when the personal protective equipment is in place, which was a major concern brought to light after two nurses became infected with the disease in Dallas.
“Now the total body is being covered,” Clayton said.