1. Section Editor(s): Newland, Jamesetta PhD, RN, FNP-BC, FAANP, DPNAP

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The name "Ebola" has a slightly musical cadence; one might even mistake it for an unconventional female name. Learning that it is the name of a river in Africa might add a hint of adventure, and the power of water generates a feeling of respect for the river's place in nature. But the real images that surface when the word "Ebola" is spoken are more alarming-disease, pain, suffering, death, and the unknown.

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The Ebola virus disease (EVD) epidemic of 2014 has tested man and science. Like past plagues (smallpox, tuberculosis, influenza, and HIV), researchers are scurrying to discover effective treatments and to develop a vaccine for widespread use to protect humans against infection from the Ebola virus. Nurses represent the largest profession in healthcare, are on the front lines in every healthcare environment, and spend the most time with patients providing direct care. We are particularly vulnerable to exposure during a health crisis involving an infectious disease. Yet nursing supersedes fear.


Saving others

Will Pooley, a British nurse who survived EVD, is planning to return to Sierra Leone after receiving excellent care in his native country, and luckily, completely recovering. He is presumably now immune to all five strains of the Ebola virus. He stated, "It does not seem likely that I will contract it again, but it will still be the same question in my mind as it was the first time. It was an easy decision at that time, and it is the same now."1


After returning from volunteering in Sierra Leone, an Australian nurse, Sue Ellen Kovaks, had two scares with fever and illness but tested negative for the Ebola virus both times. She commented, "Most importantly to me, I'm sending a message to my fellow medical professionals who are thinking about heading over to treat the sick and work at bringing Ebola under control: please, please do it."2 She, however, is restricted from returning to Sierra Leone due to a ban from the Australian government.


And truly on the front lines as deputy nurse matron at a government hospital in Kenema, Sierra Leone, Josephine Finda Sellu noted, "You have no options. You have to go and save others. You are seeing your colleagues dying, and you still go and work....If I don't volunteer, who can do this work?"3 In August, when two American medical missionaries arrived back in the United States at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Emory's chief nursing executive Susan Grant told NBC News, "The team of nurses caring for the two Americans who contracted the deadly virus in Africa stepped up where others might shrink."4


Being well equipped

The organizations working to bring EVD under control include the World Health Organization, the CDC, and the National Institutes of Health. Providing guidance and resources to medical personnel, volunteers, families, and the general public has been a difficult task. Sometimes, there are no clear answers to certain questions. Most of us will probably never be faced with making the decision to care for someone with EVD. Nevertheless, receiving ongoing information and adequate training, having proper equipment on hand, and knowing how to identify early individuals at risk for infection are critical for preparedness.


Remembering our colleagues

We will hear many more stories from nurses and others on the front lines. Whether in West Africa, here in the United States, or elsewhere, 2014 will be remembered as the year of the great Ebola outbreak. As we continue with our end-of-the-year celebrations, remember our colleagues who gave their lives to save others.


Jamesetta Newland, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, FAANP, DPNAP

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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF [email protected]




1. O'Carroll L. British nurse who survived Ebola on his way back to Sierra Leone. The Guardian. 2014. [Context Link]


2. Jabour B. Cairns nurse in Ebola scare urges volunteers to fight virus in West Africa. The Guardian. 2014. [Context Link]


3. Nossiter A, Solomon BC. Those who serve Ebola victims soldier on. The New York Times. 2014. [Context Link]


4. Snow K. Emory nurse could not be more proud of those treating Ebola. NBC News [online]. 2014. [Context Link]