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What Are Nurses' Roles with Measles and Ebola?

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Time magazine named the nurses and other health care workers who fought and continue to fight Ebola the Person of the Year for 2014. From Kaci Hickox, the nurse who was detained at Newark International Airport after volunteering in Sierra Leone with Ebola patients, to Amber Vinson, who contracted the disease at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, nurses received the majority of media attention related to the disease in the U.S.

Ebola’s impact
Although these were among the most widely publicized nurses related to Ebola in the U.S. they were far from the only ones who dealt with the disease directly, cared for patients with Ebola or prepared for the condition.

Since early outbreaks in the U.S., the American Nurses Association has advised nurses to develop preparedness plans, recognize the signs of the condition, be prepared for action and understand their right to refuse care when it presents a danger to one’s own health. These tasks are particularly important for nurses with a Master of Science in Nursing or other advanced practical nursing degrees where they may be in roles to protect other nurses, patients and the community.

Although the Ebola crisis in the U.S. has disappeared, the disease still has had a significant impact on the world of nursing. Many continue to going overseas to the hardest-hit areas to volunteer and offer care to Ebola patients and their families. In the U.S., nurses and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have learned valuable lessons about outbreak response for highly communicable diseases.

Additionally, Nina Pham, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas who also contracted Ebola while caring for Duncan, is suing the hospital’s parent company for negligence and unpreparedness in its response to Ebola, according to CNN.

Nurses and the measles
The most recent disease outbreak that has hit the U.S. is measles, which also has nurses on the front lines. According to Nurse.com, nurses in Illinois, where measles cases were originally discovered in January, have been working hard to identify and treat cases. However, some the younger nurses aren’t able to easily identify the condition because they’ve never seen measles before.

“For more experienced nurses, who have been working in nursing for a long time, some of us could still identify a measles case in a second because we had that exposure,” said Kimberly Nagy, M.S.N., R.N., executive vice president for patient services and CNO at Illinois’ Northwest Community Hospital, quoted by the news site. “But for some of the nurses, particularly the younger ones, measles was something they had seen only in their textbooks.”

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Nursecore pointed to a few tips for nurses on how to identify and address the current outbreak. But, for most nurses, the bigger role could be in helping children get vaccinated.
Nurses can play a critical role in improving vaccination levels in the U.S. Through education, nurses are able to teach many patients and parents about the importance of vaccination and dispel rumors about the risk of these common and necessary medications.

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