Ebola Virus Outbreak: U.S. Nurses Say They Are Ill Prepared, Untrained To Handle Patients

American nurses say that they are untrained and unprepared to handle patients suffering from Ebola in emergency rooms across the country. Some of them have gone to their bosses, asking for more training and information on how to protect their families from developing the deadly disease.

This contradicts statements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other entities, which assure the public that hospitals are prepared to treat patients that come in suffering from Ebola symptoms. So far, the disease has killed 3,338 people in the deadliest outbreak ever recorded.

According to The Huffington Post, Dr. Edward Goodman, an infectious disease doctor at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, now caring for the first Ebola patient to be diagnosed in the U.S., thought his hospital was ready to handle the case. When Thomas Eric Duncan arrived at their emergency department on September 26, the hospital had just finished training personnel on Ebola care.

However, information surfaced indicating that, even though Duncan had recently traveled to Liberia, staff didn’t make the connection to the Ebola outbreak affecting the African country, which had been in the news several weeks prior. The man was sent home after being evaluated by emergency room doctors, but his condition deteriorated for the next two days.

“The Texas case is a perfect example,” says Micker Samios, a triage nurse in the emergency department at Medstar Washington Hospital Center. “In addition to not being prepared, there was a flaw in diagnostics as well as communication.”

Samios adds that much of the hospital’s personnel feels that they are inadequately trained.

Nurses say that the risk is not recognizing a patient that is suffering from Ebola and making the outbreak worse by not caring for them immediately, and failing to follow safety precautions for themselves. The spokeswoman for the hospital, So Young Pak, said it has been training staff since July “in the Emergency Department and elsewhere, and communicating regularly with physicians, nurses and others throughout the hospital.”

“When an Ebola patient is admitted or goes to the intensive care unit, those nurses, those tech service associates are not trained,” Samios said. “The X-ray tech who comes into the room to do the portable chest X-ray is not trained. The transporter who pushes the stretcher is not trained.”

“How do you clean the elevator?” is a question nurses at hospitals across the U.S. are asking. The risk of contracting Ebola is much higher for healthcare providers because the disease is only spread by contact with bodily fluids from someone who is actively sick.

As of August 25, more than 240 healthcare providers have been diagnosed with Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, where the outbreak is centered, the World Health Organization says. Of those, more than 120 have died. Many of these infections happened when medical personnel was removing their protective gear used while working with patients, according to biosafety experts.

“People say they are ready, but then when you ask them what do you actually have in place, nobody is really answering that,” said Karen Higgins, a registered nurse at Boston Medical Center.

“I said, well, that’s great, but if the patient requires an ICU, what is your plan,” she said. “They looked at me blankly.”

As Thomas Duncan’s health takes a turn for the worse, not only the American public, but healthcare personnel wonder if they are truly prepared to deal with a potential Ebola outbreak.

[Image via Shutterstock]