Nurse Talk


Explore practical news and information for healthcare consumers and become more engaged in your healthcare today, from the nurse experts at NJHA.

Aline Holmes, DNP, RN, is the senior vice president of clinical affairs for NJHA, as well as the program co-leader of the New Jersey Nursing Initiative. She leads the New Jersey Hospital Improvement Innovation Network under the national Partnership for Patients initiative. A U.S. Navy Nurse Corps veteran, Holmes completed her doctorate in nursing leadership at Rutgers University. 

Shannon Davila, RN, MSN, is the director of the Institute for Quality and Patient Safety at NJHA. She leads clinical improvement programs under the Partnership for Patients initiative. An infection prevention specialist, Davila was named a 2016 Hero of Infection Prevention by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.


FEATURED ARTICLE

When the nurse becomes the patient: Lessons learned about sepsis

Nurses go through years of training, put in many hours of bedside care and learn with every patient we encounter. But sometimes even with our deep knowledge of health, the signs of sepsis can be elusive.

That’s what happened to my friend, Dori. 

Dori is an experienced nurse, part of her hospital’s sepsis committee and a busy mom, and she recently shared her story with me.

Septicemia, also known as sepsis or blood infection, is the body’s extreme reaction to infection. If not caught and treated quickly, sepsis can cause tissue damage, organ failure and death.

Last winter, Dori recognized the familiar symptoms of kidney stones. Despite it being a painful condition, she thought it was manageable. Symptoms of kidney stones — including severe pain, vomiting, fever, chills, blood in urine or difficulty urinating — requires quick medical attention. Instead she soldiered on with her day, as many moms do, with some over-the-counter pain medication. Dori dismissed her dizziness and chills.

When other symptoms, including leg cramping, no appetite and weakness, showed up, she took more pain reliever and thought it would pass with a good night’s sleep. But, as soon as she woke up, Dori knew there was something seriously wrong.

Still, Dori tried to avoid going to the emergency department. After getting dizzy in the shower, it took her three hours to get ready to finally go to the hospital. When she arrived, the nurse took her vital signs and her blood pressure was dangerously low.

One of the reasons sepsis is so deadly is that often it presents with symptoms similar to the flu — fever, chills, weakness and other familiar signs. Luckily, the emergency room staff knew what was going on and acted quickly. Around the entire state, hospitals have been focused on identifying and treating sepsis rapidly to prevent the damaging complications it can cause.

“It felt like I was having a dream. So many things were happening all at the same time,” she told me. “When the sepsis team arrived at my bedside, I knew then disregarding symptoms was foolish and I began to realize the consequences of not going to the ED. I was truly scared that I could die.”

After surgery to relieve the kidney stones, she wasn’t responding to the IV fluids that are used to treat sepsis. Dori was admitted to the intensive care unit, and her blood pressure was still very low.

Eventually, after three days of specialists and constant monitoring, Dori was transferred out of the ICU. In all, she needed a full week to get healthy enough to go home, with a prescription for more antibiotics and more surgeries ahead.

Dori is grateful for the expertise of the team that treated her, and hopes her story will help other people identify the signs of sepsis and seek treatment early. Sepsis can be prevented by limiting infections: get a flu shot, cover cuts and wounds, take care of chronic conditions and wash your hands often and well. Developing sepsis can happen to anyone, even nurses. Just ask Dori.

Shannon Davila, RN, MSN, is the director of the Institute for Quality and Patient Safety at NJHA. She leads clinical improvement programs and was named a 2016 Hero of Infection Prevention by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. Doriann Prasek, BSN, RN, CIC, is a manager of infection prevention at a New Jersey hospital.