WHAT NURSES MUST KNOW TO PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM EBOLA

America is facing a challenging time with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  In August of 2014, two missionary workers were infected while working in West Africa and were transported to the U.S for treatment.  They both survived the virus after they were given the experimental drug ZMapp.  

A man from West Africa was the next victim to contract the virus. Mr. Duncan traveled to the U.S once he was infected. He later died but was not offered ZMapp, because the supplies were depleted. 

Two nurses that cared for Duncan were then diagnosed with the virus and recovered after treatment with ZMapp.  

It's  apparent that early treatment for the virus is critical to a patient's recovery.  Duncan had been infected for at least four days, before seeking treatment. 

How do nurses protect themselves from this disease?  Knowledge is power and we have relied on the CDC and our places of employment, to inform and educate us on the best practices to protect ourselves from contracting this virus. But, before August 2014, the U.S had not seen the Ebola virus on its soil and only four hospitals have the isolation units to treat it effectively,

 Do you have the right to decline caring for a patient with Ebola?

Nurses are obligated to provide non-discriminatory care to all individuals.  Since 2009, the ANA, in its Position Statement “Patient Safety: Rights of Registered Nurses When Considering a Patient Assignment”  has upheld the right of registered nurses to accept, reject, or object in writing to any patient assignment that puts patients or themselves at serious risk for harm. In addition registered nurses are duty- bound, legally, professionally, and ethically, to act as advocates for themselves and their patients by voicing concerns about patient assignments.6 How that advocacy manifests itself can make all the difference in the world, not only for the registered nurse but also the patient and the public at large as well. individuals."

 

If you are ever asked to care for a patient with Ebola or one that is suspected of being infected with the virus and you feel you lack the necessary protection or training, you should consider the the following before making a decision to care for the patient: 

1. Refuse the assignment, carefully following the procedures and polices set forth by your (e.g., in writing, factual reasons);

2.  If you are a union member, contact the union representative for clarification and guidelines. 

3. Always seek the guidance of an attorney that deals with these sort of legal matters. Make it clear to them that you are considering refusal and ask them what the legal consequences and repercussions will be should your employer ignore your request.

4. Request that you be adequately trained and provided with PPE necessary to protect yourself, before any care is initiated. 

5. Report any instances of  failure to follow CDC guidelines and/or  lack of adherence to state health department mandates (with guidance from your lawyer).

If you truly feel you cannot decline the assignment you have been given, you should provide the care with strict adherence to the policies of your employer's protocol and follow the Blood and Body Fluid Protocol that was established after the HIV/AIDS crisis. Understand that these Protocols will more than likely not protect you from the Ebola virus. Both of the nurses that cared for Mr. Duncan  followed these Protocols, without breaching them, but still became infected with the virus. 

If you do become infected, you should seek treatment immediately with a facility that provides its health care employees with the adequate and proper PPE and carefully follows protocols for treating Ebola.

If you find you have been infected, contact a workers' compensation attorney to determine whether you have a claim.  This subject is being heavily debated at this time, but it can be argued that health care workers are at increased risk of contracting the virus, because it is there responsibility to care for these patients as part of their job description and they have little choice. 

Arm yourself with malpractice insurance. You can't afford not to. All nurses should be prepared for lawsuits that may be filed following the death of these patients. You can be mentioned in a lawsuit, should you refuse an Ebola patient and the patient dies.

It is important to realize that most lawsuits will be initially directed at your employer, who is required to enforce adherence to protocols and train healthcare workers to be proficient at carrying out their duties under the regulations of the facility. If a lawsuit is filed and your employer is found to be negligent in any way, it is your employer's insurance company that will pay the clam. The insurance company has the right to recover their loss and you could then be faced with wage garnishment...etc.  This is why it is imperative that you carry your own malpractice insurance.

If you refuse care for any patient, this can be reported to your state board of nursing. Protect yourself by keeping documentation and truthful reasons for refusal of care, including proof that your decision was not based of discriminatory reasons. This should clear you from any disciplinary action from the board. Always consult with a lawyer, any time you are faced with disciplinary action from a board of nursing.  Never speak with them without consulting an attorney.  They are not your advocate, they are a government entity, there to protect the public. 

 

 

THIS ARTICLES IS INTENDED FOR  EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. IT IS NOT TO BE TAKEN AS SPECIFIC LEGAL OR OTHER ADVICE BY THE READER. IF LEGAL OR OTHER ADVICE IS NEEDED, THE READER IS ENCOURAGED TO SEEK ADVICE FROM A COMPETENT PROFESSIONAL.