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Nurses and Ebola: Which resources should we trust?

iStock | s-c-s

iStock | s-c-s

I’ll admit it. I initially ignored everything circulating the World Wide Web concerning Ebola. It was overwhelming—and honestly, downright scary. Ebola touching down on U.S. soil?! Ebola? If everything I was reading and hearing was true…we as a country (and species!) were in trouble.

As a nurse practitioner I began approaching the events surrounding the current Ebola crisis with caution.

There was all sorts of information out there. A man traveling from West Africa? Treated late in the disease progression and eventually lost his battle with the virus and died. Then a nurse diagnosed with Ebola, then a second nurse (and now a physician who previously treated Ebola patients in another country).

When the Internet became shell-shocked and started tailspinning, I found myself revisiting and utilizing old habits I developed during my countless hours spent on nursing school evidenced-based research (EBP).

I knew I couldn’t keep ignoring it. As an NP and fellow nurse, it was saddening. I knew if I was concerned, those who weren’t in healthcare were going to be scared (which was evident from all the social-media status updates I read).

I decided it was time. I needed to arm myself. I started to take responsibility. I observed. I gathered information. I listened. I asked questions.

Regardless of my personal feelings, experiences or opinions, it’s my responsibility as an advanced practice nurse to educate and raise awareness.

It saddens my heart that two fellow nurses (and now a physician) have been diagnosed with this virulent disease. It disgusted me as a professional to see how all of those events played out. All the finger pointing, blame placing and clique formations made me feel like we were all back in the schoolyard. And no party was blame-free (yes, even the nursing community reared an ugly side). It was downright unnerving.

So I decided to blog about it. I wanted to share, disseminate and clarify any and all the information that I could about Ebola in our country.

What follows is a plethora of information, facts and links to help you arm yourself (and your patients) properly to make educated and informed decisions about Ebola. Let’s not forget that we as nurses serve as resources for the laymen. Remember, we get asked curbside advice on virtually everything, so all-things-Ebola is fair game. I’m willing to bet most of us nurses have already been approached about something related to Ebola.

Be diligent, my fellow nurses, readers and viewers. Be cognizant of what you are reading. Not everything you read, view or hear is valid or reliable (yep, EBP again). Shock journalism is running rampant out there. Scare tactics are being used out there on the “Internets” to garner viewership and popularity. Arm yourself with reasonable doubt on EVERYTHING you read, view or hear regarding the vast subject of Ebola.

I think we should all try and remember how scary the AIDS pandemic was in the early 1980s. The stigma and erroneous misinformation during that time was equally startling. I tend to take the opinion that Ebola is our AIDS of the present. Sure, we’ve known of its existence, pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment, but that doesn’t mean we know all there is to know.

Lastly, keep in mind there are a handful of diseases out there that are far more deadly to our nation than Ebola at the present time. A quick scholarly search revealed:

  • 14,000 Americans die each year from C. diff.
  • 75,000 hospital patients with hospital acquired infections die during their hospitalizations (which can be caused by an array of bacteria—ever heard of MRSA?).
  • During the 2013–14 influenza season, the percentage of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) exceeded the epidemic threshold for eight consecutive weeks (and that’s with an existing vaccine).

You are statistically more likely to suffer and possibly die from these three very common diseases than from Ebola. Stay informed, my dear readers.

Resources and reporting… 

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