Ebola in the US – Is a Nurse the Villian?

Ebola is in the United States, and all over the media with a second case recently diagnosed.  The individual is a 26 year old nurse from Texas.  How she contracted the virus remains a mystery at this point, but the early indication from the CDC is that she messed up or committed a “breach in protocol”.

Did she unknowingly mess up? Maybe.  Did someone else leave something contaminated in an area that it shouldn’t have been?  Maybe.  Is there another explanation?  Maybe.  I don’t know if we will ever know, but implying that this caring nurse is to blame for the second case of Ebola in the US isn’t right.  I’m an expert on medication errors and I’ve seen a lot of them.  It’s pretty easy to sit on the sidelines and comfortably point the finger.  This nurse had “extensive contact” with this patient and I well know, the more you are in the game, the more medications you administer, the more chances you have to make a mistake.  This applies to direct patient care as well.

Is this nurse inept or at least careless as the CDC might have us believe?  Full disclosure, I have never met or worked with this nurse, just trying to piece this together in my head.  Here’s why I believe she was one of the best and brightest that Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital employs.  If you were in a management position at this hospital and you knew that your hospital was going to take care of the only Ebola patient in the United States and that the whole world was watching, are you going to pick a nurse who shows up late for work, doesn’t pay attention, or has been known to go rogue from time to time?  Your hospital is in charge of preventing an outbreak of epic proportions, which people are you going to choose to take care of this patient?  You are going to choose your A+ people if at all possible, and you certainly aren’t going to allow your C- employees to have “extensive contact”.  I can’t possibly believe management didn’t think about this.

Here’s what the storyline should entail.  Anyone willing to risk their life to help a complete stranger deserves at a minimum some respect .  It was infuriating hearing those in an advisory position saying the protocol was not followed.  The CDC is in a tight spot and they had two options.  Admit that the Ebola “protocol” isn’t as safe as they thought, potentially escalating the panic or else blame the healthcare professional(s) trying to save us.  They chose to imply the latter.  We have a 26 year old healthcare professional, emphasis on the word professional who is standing on the front line fighting this deadly virus so you and I don’t have to, and she’s the one who initially gets “blamed” for her being infected.  Her life is hanging in the balance, and the only reason she is at risk is because she cares.

Next press conference, get up to the podium, call this nurse a hero and be thankful you live in a country that has people like this.  Then you can also say WE need to do a better job of protecting those healthcare professionals who are putting their lives on the line for us.  Doesn’t she at least deserve that?

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  1. John Joachim

    Agreed on every single word, except perhaps the characterization of “C+ Nurses,” who are still very, very good at their jobs. I am aware of two incidences in as many years where a nurse performed a “breach in protocol,” and both have received accolades – one even flowers – from patients, families, and/or staff over situations prior to the incident in the spotlight.

    I’m simply strengthening and seconding your argument, to be sure.

  2. Patty Poczciwinski

    Management throwing their heroes under the bus.



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Written By Eric Christianson

October 14, 2014

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