NursingCenter’s In the Round

A dialog by nurses, for nurses

Flu Panic

clock January 20, 2013 03:11 by author Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP

I’m a bit ashamed to be admitting this to a group of nurses, but I figure that if I shame myself enough maybe I won’t let this happen again. Ok, here it is…I didn’t get a flu shot. There, I said it. No reason, really, I just got busy and it kept getting pushed to the bottom of my to-do list. My husband got his at work, I took the kids for theirs, but mine – I just never got around to it. I am embarrassed and yes, more than a little nervous about getting sick. 

I’ve been reading a ton about this year’s influenza viruses "taking the U.S. by storm." I get emails from the CDC with the latest numbers and maps showing flu activity around the country. Our Nursing News page has links to updates and articles about this year’s virus. Our twitter timeline and facebook newsfeed also contain quite a bit of flu-related news, opinions, and personal stories these days. 

Not only am I “virtually” surrounded by the virus, but my kids come home from school each day with a report of who was absent, or more concerning, who was sick at school. My husband returns from his work as a respiratory therapist with a flu update from the hospital floors. And of course, I’m aware of every sniffle and sneeze around me when I’m out. 

My plan, which has been working well so far, consists of the usual recommended practices: frequent handwashing, not touching my face, getting enough rest and eating well, and doing my best to avoid those who are sick. However, while I’ve dodged illness thus far this flu season, I will surely be calling my nurse practitioner this week to schedule my vaccination! 

Any other advice? 

Pneumococcal pneumonia in the house

clock January 12, 2012 08:15 by author Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP

The holidays were not without incident at our house this year. Illness reared its head as it usually does when excitement builds and holiday events and preparations keep us too busy to get adequate rest and eat right. This year, however, it was my husband who was down-and-out, not one of our kids.

He had a cough for about a week and was fatigued, but, despite my clinical judgment that he should rest, I “encouraged” him to help out with all that still needed to be done before Christmas. On Christmas day, he really wasn’t looking so well – high fever, chills, productive cough that seemed constant. He spent the evening in bed taking ibuprofen around the clock to help alleviate his symptoms.

By late morning the next day, we called our primary care office and found that they were closed for the holiday. We ended up heading over to the emergency department (ED) at our local hospital. In triage, he was found to be febrile, tachycardic, and hypoxic. He got a stat dose of albuterol and was quickly taken back to a room in the ED. As we went through his medical and surgical history with the ED nurse, we both paused and looked at each other when he told her that he had a splenectomy when he was younger. 

Oops – did we forget the implications of being without a spleen and the need to seek care quickly when he gets sick? And hadn’t I just read something about the risks associated with splenectomy?

Shortly after, labs came back and his white blood cell count was 43,000. So, he spent 4 days in the hospital on I.V. antibiotics. His diagnosis? Pneumococcal pneumonia.

Yes, I had read “something” recently and even put in on our recommended reading list a few weeks prior. Needless to say, I did go back and read this one again: A close up view of Pneumococcal disease.

“Risk factors for acquisition of the disease are alcohol abuse, splenectomy, immunocompromised status, smoking, and asthma.”


All is well now. And next time, I’ll ease up on my “encouragement” and do a better job with my assessment!

Patient safety, handwashing, and hierarchy

clock March 15, 2010 06:14 by author Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP

During Patient Safety Awareness Week last week, the following interview from the New York Times caught my attention. In Doctor Leads Quest for Safer Ways to Care for Patients, Dr. Peter J. Pronovost, medical director of the Quality and Safety Research Group at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, describes his quest for patient safety after the misdiagnosis of his father and the death of a child from a catheter-associated infection.

At one point in the interview, Dr. Pronovost talks about improving physician handwashing practices. Part of the solution was for the nursing staff to make sure the doctors wash their hands and if the doctors didn’t wash, the nurse could stop the procedure. The following excerpt from the interview demonstrates how both the nurses and doctors responded:

A. You would have thought I started World War III! The nurses said it wasn’t their  job to monitor doctors; the doctors said no nurse was going to stop takeoff. I said: “Doctors, we know we’re not perfect, and we can forget important safety measures.  And nurses, how could you permit a doctor to start if they haven’t washed their hands?” I told the nurses they could page me day or night, and I’d support them.  Well, in four years’ time, we’ve gotten infection rates down to almost zero in the  I.C.U.

Wonderful outcome, right? Yes, but the strategy was not well-accepted initially. Later in the interview, Dr. Pronovost discusses the benefits of empowering nurses and avoiding the hierarchical structure seen in so many settings. As nurses, we spend the most time with patients, we are aware of subtle changes in their condition, and we have a duty to speak up when patient safety is at risk. Along the same lines, we also have the right to be heard. In short, to have a successful team, mutual respect and effective communication are critical.

How comfortable are you with your team? What approach would you take in reminding a colleague (nurse, physician, or anyone else) to wash his or her hands?

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