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Doctors and nurses were among the first people infected during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Then, when an infected African patient entered a Texas hospital, he passed the virus to two nurses.
The World Health Organization reports that health workers are between 21 and 32 times more likely to be infected with Ebola than people in the general population, but that well-defined clinical care protocols can prevent such infections.
A potentially life-saving rehearsal is coming up April 6, in a course titled “Treating Patients with Highly Contagious Infectious Diseases: Using Technology to Advance Safety. “
The course is sponsored by the University of Washington’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, in collaboration with the WWAMI Institute for Simulation in Healthcare at UW Medicine’s Harborview Medical Center and the Carilion Research Institute at Virginia Tech University, with funding from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, Safety and Health Investment Project.
Simulation provides a safe way to study systems, test protocols, and detect safety threats, said course co-directors Rosemarie Fernandez, a UW associate professor in the Division of Emergency Medicine, and Scott Meschke, a UW professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences. When combined with risk analysis methods, these simulations can help identify unanticipated threats to safety.
Healthcare workers and their managers need to know “what to do if a sudden, horrible thing happens that is so different from what they do day to day,” Fernandez said. Ebola was such a threat, turning one of the simplest hospital procedures – changing sheets – into one of the riskiest.
Ebola patients produce an almost unbelievable amount of watery stool, she explained. Heavy protective gear can make it awkward for healthcare workers to move patients or handle their linens. The simulation will let workers practice, using a runny mixture of root beer, yogurt, and chocolate pudding to represent Ebola symptoms.
The one-day course is designed for healthcare providers, infection control practitioners, occupational health professionals, public health professionals, hospital administrators, and operations staff.
To register and for more information, visit the department’s Continuing Education Programs.
CDC guidance for US hospitals, http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/healthcare-us/hospitals/infection-control.html
Photo: Simulation drills taken from video, where mounted cameras and camera spy glasses film the simulation drills at the WWAMI Institute for Simulation in Healthcare (WISH) at Harborview Medical Center. Photo courtesy of Rosemarie Fernandez.