In October ebola took the United States by storm. Well, no. That’s not quite right. In October one man sucumbed to the disease while the media filled the headlines with sensationalist click-bait bullshit to terrify people. Somehow, through all of the fog and subterfuge, the topic of training surfaced.
First off, one death is too many to have on the continent. Secondly, I don’t want to minimize the risk that hospital staff experience on a daily basis. Having said that, I do have some thoughts.
Towards the end of August Senegal announced a case of ebola within their borders but the large outbreak took hold in March of 2014. This was something that should have been considered by hospital administrations to prepare their staff. In the same way that if there’s a bus crash reported, the staff get the heads up, clear out the low hanging fruit and start lining out beds (the beds that are empty any way). This wasn’t something that was kept under wraps.
If healthcare staff had not been trained on the virus there are several ways to quickly put out information. They would need to know how to use personal protective equipment (PPE), and they’d need to know everything they could about the virus. How can we deliver the fastest training possible. It can’t be live, and it has to fit neatly into the varied and trying schedules of healthcare support workers. ELearning is the way it would have to go. The Articulate blog put out a challenge to it’s readers to create some level of elearning content and make it available on a public resource. They go so far as to highlight a group that is looking for volunteers. Using their clout to put the right people in contact to help solve a problem. Seems like a win. As far as using PPE’s, youtube is a great place for that. Hospitals, in theory, could create a video in a matter of minutes, post it, and email it to their employees. They could also post a QR code with a link to the video in break rooms or supply rooms so they could view them when they have a moment. So, that seems to take care of the speed of communication issue.
National Nurses United has provided a list of, as of October 3rd, that it says hospitals are not ready. According to the survey hospitals don’t have rooms equipped with essential items, and they aren’t able to reduce their patient load to allow of isolation o f quarantined patients. That’s a resource issue. An issue, to be sure, but it doesn’t seem like a quick fix. Hospitals are large clumsy machines and I would recklessly assume that they are unable to react quickly. But their purchasers should have channels in place to sort this out.
I’m a trainer and I’ve purchased a $45 wireless presenter (also known as a “clicker”). I didn’t have to but I wanted to be self-sufficient. I am not exposed to life and death situations. If I were exposed to life and death type stuff, I’d sure as hell make sure my bacon was covered! Nurses SHOULD NOT have to go out of pocket for these types of items. Nope. Not a chance. BUT! If it were completely in my power to have a $3 face-sheild or a $47 fluid impervious isolation gown, I would pull the trigger in a second. We mentioned above that this specific outbreak started in March so hospitals were not caught off guard. They most likely did a risk analysis and saw, based on the odds, that sinking money into ebola preparedness didn’t out-weigh the odds of the backlash from the nurses unions. When everyone bows to the almighty dollar this is will always be the outcome.
Back to knowledge, if you were to travel to the CDC’s site, you’d find that they have a lot of material about the virus, including how to care for patients and checklists for workers and hospital administrators alike. There are also links on how to don and doff (put on and take off) PPE.
My conclusion is, there is no lack of knowledge of information about the virus and it’s easy to get hold of the necessary equipment to keep one’s self safe while treating patients. This was not a training issue at all. A coordination issue. A motivation issue. But not a training issue.
To hospital administrators: I would expect you to have systems in place where you’d be able to order protective gowns, etc and have them in place in a matter of days. WTF? Training materials, FAQs, everything should be pushed to your staff. They can be created and sent out very quickly. Tell your legal department to pound salt and just send it out. I’d be less worried about the branding and more worried about lives and lawsuits from a lack of readiness.
To healthcare workers: Don’t wait for someone to take care of you. Look out for yourself now and take it up with the boss when the dust clears. Find you’re own answers and be your own master.