Nurses’ Role in Halting Infections

The recent outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa has driven home the importance of adequate infection control. After health care workers spread the virus to the U.S., many were left wondering what lapses could have made it possible for the most highly trained professionals to unknowingly contract a virus for which seemingly every precaution was already being taken. While the outbreak may be a rare event, it helps to illustrate the difficulties of maintaining proper infection control procedures. If even a closely monitored and difficult-to-spread illness can pass so rapidly through international borders, more common and overlooked ailments do so even more easily.

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Room for improvement
A recent report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health showed that, on a systemic level, there is still much work to be done in combating the spread of infectious diseases in the U.S. According to the report, almost one-quarter of health care professionals neglected to receive flu vaccinations in 2013 and 2014. Outside the health care industry, the majority of adults don’t receive vaccinations, and only in 14 states did half the population receive one.

Control of infections within the health care setting has improved almost immeasurably since institutions began seriously working on the problem. However, there is still room for improvement, as hospitals can prove fertile breeding grounds for disease if the proper care isn’t taken to prevent it. Around one out of every 25 people who are hospitalized in the U.S. each year becomes infected while receiving care.

Stopping the spread
Still, many states received high marks from the report for their efforts in controlling infections, proving that the problem can be solved with enough work. Advancements in health care technology play a major part in keeping the rate of infection down, but so does the expertise of professionals in the field. Nurses with the proper training to contain and fight infections can be one of the strongest forms of defense protecting the public from outbreaks.

Preparing for the worst
According to Infection Control Today, simulations can be an effective measure in helping to slow the spread of infections. Even with a high level of education, health care workers may have a difficult time confronting emerging crises.

Routine tasks and those that stay in the forefront of nurses’ thoughts often cause no trouble, but events that come once in a lifetime may give even seasoned veterans pause. Because of that, the World Health Organization used simulations to train teams heading to West Africa to combat the Ebola threat.

Simulations can also be helpful to train nurses in procedures that require a high degree of precision or for which time is of the essence. Many nurse educators choose to incorporate increasingly advanced simulations into their lessons to help their students stay on the cutting edge of the profession. Nurse managers and other MSN holders in positions of authority may choose to use simulations to keep their staffs’ skills up to date.