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Advanced Nursing Degrees Could Help Nurses Fight Deadly Diseases

The recent outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa has left many in the U.S. grappling with an issue they likely never expected to face. While fears of an American outbreak of the virus were quickly quelled, the danger to global health persists and it’s all the more pressing for those in health care professions.

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Nurses are often on the frontlines of health crises, as evidenced by the U.S. nurses who contracted Ebola. While nurses are usually well equipped to deal with the threats posed by diseases that seem daunting to the general public, the resources needed to prepare for rare events like the Ebola outbreak may not always be available.

Unprepared, but ready to help
According to a recent survey of more than 2,200 nursing school graduates conducted by Kaplan Test Prep, 57 percent of respondents said that they didn’t feel prepared to treat patients with Ebola. They were also shaken by the threat of contracting the deadly disease themselves, with 55 percent reporting that they would feel unsafe dealing with patients with Ebola.

However, the desire to help others that marks the nursing profession can still win out over fear and doubt. Kaplan’s survey found that 29 percent of nursing school graduates would willingly volunteer to treat people with the Ebola virus, while 24 percent would travel to Africa to meet the epidemic at its source.

As Kaplan’s vice president of nursing, Susan Sanders, said, lack of understanding fuels much of the fear of Ebola, not a lack of compassion.

That view is confirmed by the results of Kaplan’s survey. Of the nursing school graduates polled, 81 percent said that they saw putting the possibility of having to put themselves in danger as an accepted part of their chosen profession. While there’s no lack of willingness to place themselves in harm’s way on the part of these nurses, the infrastructure to help them perform to the best of their abilities may be lacking. When even the most motivated members of the community feel that they may not be ready to tackle the Ebola outbreak, it may be a sign that more should be done to prepare them.

“Their concerns underscore the need for better education, improved preparation and enhanced safety precautions around this disease,” Sanders said.

The benefits of advanced training
Fortunately, enhanced training could help nurses gain a better understanding of Ebola and other diseases, and better equip them to help slow their spread.

Continuing education beyond the BSN level could help nurses be better prepared for unforeseen health crises. According to U.S. News and World Report, obtaining a master’s degree in nursing may be the best way to climb the hospital ranks to become a nurse supervisor or manager. The knowledge imparted by an advanced education in nursing can prepare workers to take on more responsibilities and face challenges that may stump colleagues without as much training.

In many states, nurse practitioners with master’s degrees are able to work without the oversight of a licensed physician, the source reported. They can thus rely immediately on their own expertise to make decisions and act more quickly in emergency situations.

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