The Ebola outbreak that has sickened two nurses at a Dallas hospital has intensified the focus on the virus among the Charlotte nursing community.
A second nurse, 29-year-old Amber Joy Vinson, has been diagnosed with the virus. Nurse Nina Pham, 26, is already being treated for Ebola. Both had cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, who died after contracting the disease in Liberia. The two nurses represent the first transmissions of the virus in the U.S.
The news has prompted conversations and vigilant study of safety protocols among nurses at Charlotte hospitals. The faculty of the nursing school at Queens University of Charlotte is planning a schoolwide assembly next week on the nature of pandemics.
Charlotte critical care nurse Kati Kleber penned an open letter to Pham this week on her blog, Nurse Eye Roll. In the letter, she thanks Pham for her work and says the nursing community stands behind her. She also wrote that she may be chosen for a team that would treat Ebola patients in Charlotte.
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“It hits close to home when it’s one of you on the front lines,” Kleber said in an interview.
She said the Ebola news is a hot topic of discussion among her coworkers, but said most nurses she has talked to are encouraged with the precautions being taken. They’ve been quick to print memos from hospital administrators on the subject and study them closely. Kleber declined to identify which hospital she works for because she’s not authorized to speak on its behalf.
“It’s a little scary, but it’s part of the job,” Kleber said. “It’s part of the job you sign up for. It makes you a little uneasy, but it makes you hyper-vigilant.”
Ebola was also a primary topic at a faculty meeting Wednesday at the Presbyterian School of Nursing at Queens University. The faculty decided to hold an assembly next week to go over the meaning of a pandemic and what it means for the world.
“The information is constantly changing,” said Tama Morris, director of the school. “It’s important that we are aware of it and keep up with it and that we keep our students involved.”
Morris said that every generation of nurses has had a new infectious disease to deal with, from HIV to SARS to H1N1. She said protection from contracting diseases like this is part of the first classes a nursing student takes.
“You would not even send a student in to take vital signs without having that background,” Morris said.
Hospital officials in Charlotte have said they are preparing for the possibility that a patient with Ebola will come to them. On Tuesday, Novant Health announced that potentially infected people who arrive at any of their 15 hospitals in four states would be transferred to a regional medical center, including Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte. Presbyterian has set up an isolated eight-bed intensive care unit that could be used to treat an Ebola patient. Carolinas HealthCare System had already set out a similar policy.