1. Baker, Kathy A. PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN

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As I write this editorial, a second nursing colleague has been infected with Ebola virus after caring for the first patient to be diagnosed while on U.S. soil. I have experienced a mix of emotions as the news has been disseminated through "breaking reports" and newspaper headlines. It is infuriating to observe journalists and media outlets that sensationalize the tragic events surrounding this experience, but I so admire those who have truthfully and accurately presented facts and offered thanks for the sacrifices made by these colleagues as they did their best to care for this critically ill patient. Instead of pointing fingers or criticizing those directly involved in the crisis, why are Americans not rallying around efforts to minimize hysteria, using common sense and factual information to respond to the threat, and supporting our caregivers who have sacrificed their health (or at a minimum, peace of mind) as they do their best to deliver quality care in a less than optimal situation?

Kathy A. Baker, PhD,... - Click to enlarge in new windowKathy A. Baker, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN

I have been stunned at the questions and comments from friends and the public at large who truly do not seem to grasp that nurses care for infectious patients in risky settings every day. The Ebola crisis is new to the United States, and it is unfortunate that we are having to learn from our mistakes as this threat unfolds here at home, but this is nothing different from the experiences we have had when first dealing with other communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, measles, meningitis, influenza, malaria, pneumonia-a short list of the many infectious diseases nurses and all healthcare providers deal with on an almost daily basis.


With the more than 67,000,000 international visitors arriving on airplanes in the United States annually (, the American public must recognize the spread of contagious diseases is truly a worldwide issue with far-reaching implications for the safety and welfare of every global citizen. The answer, however, is not to close our borders or turn our backs on what is happening in others countries. We must fund scientists and laboratories that are working to understand and eradicate these deadly infectious agents, provide experts and equipment to support those delivering care and fighting to eradicate the impact within afflicted communities, educate ourselves, about (and practice) public health strategies that minimize the transmission of communicable diseases. Ebola is not the only infectious disease that kills! People around the world, including the United States, die from diseases that could be easily controlled with basic hygienic practices or access to immunizations and vaccines.


As gastroenterology and endoscopy nurses and associates, I know we have a heightened sense of responsibility related to infection control. The Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA) members' attention to infection control is highlighted through our national statements and guidelines, including the 2011 "Multisociety Guideline on Reprocessing Flexible Gastrointestinal Endoscopes, Guideline for Use of High Level Disinfectants& Sterilants for Reprocessing Flexible Gastrointestinal Endoscopes" (American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy & Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, 2011); "Guideline for Use of High Level Disinfectants and Sterilants for Reprocessing Flexible Gastrointestinal Endoscopes" (SGNA, 2013a); "Standards of Infection Control in Reprocessing of Flexible Gastrointestinal Endoscopes" (SGNA, 2012); "Reuse of Single-Use Critical Medical Devices" (SGNA, 2013b); "Statement on Reprocessing of Water Bottles Used During Endoscopy" (SGNA, 2011); and "Statement on Reprocessing of Endoscopic Accessories and Valves" (2013c). Beyond those evidence-based documents guiding practice in gastroenterology endoscopy nursing, we consistently practice hand hygiene before touching patients and standard precautions in handling blood and body fluids. Educating our patients about the importance of hand hygiene and timely immunizations (e.g., influenza, measles, pneumonia, hepatitis, tetanus, herpes zoster, pertussis, polio, rotovirus) are other important aspects of public health that gastroenterology nurses and associates capitalize on when visiting with our patients and their families and friends in the gastroenterology endoscopy setting.


We need to be sure we take advantage of the awareness generated by the current frightening public health threat to help society understand what nurses and all healthcare providers face day-to-day. Even more important, we need to use this opportunity to focus the public on the importance of attention to contagious diseases that are often minimized in the United States. The public should be aware that their deliberate choices to avoid standard immunizations, go to work or other public places when sick, and not wash their hands routinely are all public health hazards that contribute to illness-and for some who are immunocompromised and exposed, death occurs as a result of lax public attention to simple infection control practices.


I am grateful for my colleagues across the United States who provided care to those infected with Ebola. Their courage and commitment to delivering sensitive and quality care to those who have been inflicted with this virus is admirable and awe inspiring. To those who themselves were exposed and infected during their delivery of care, you are heroes. And to my colleagues in gastroenterology endoscopy nursing who day after day handle blood and body fluids with both known and unknown infections, thank you for your expertise, your commitment, and your devotion to minimizing risks in your delivery of care to the American public. I wish they only knew how much you do to keep them safe.




American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy & Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America. (2011). Multisociety guideline on reprocessing flexible gastrointestinal endoscopes. Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, 73(6), 1075-1084. [Context Link]


Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA). (2011). Statement on reprocessing of water bottles used during endoscopy. Retrieved from[Context Link]


Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates. (2012). Standards of infection control in reprocessing of flexible gastrointestinal endoscopes. Gastroenterology Nursing, 36(4), 293-303. [Context Link]


Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates. (2013a). Guideline for the use of high level disinfectants and sterilants for reprocessing flexible gastrointestinal endoscopes. Retrieved from[Context Link]


Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA). (2013b). Reuse of single-use critical medical devices. Retrieved from[Context Link]


Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA). (2013c). Statement on reprocessing of endoscopic accessories and valves. Gastroenterology Nursing, 36(4), 291-292. [Context Link]