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Stopping Sepsis

Posted by Scott Cooper, MSEd, MBA, BSN, RN, CCRN-K, NEA-BC
Director of Professional Practice Excellence on September 28, 2020

Scott Cooper, MSEd, MBA, BSN, RN, CCRN-K, NEA-BC

Every 20 seconds, someone in the United States is diagnosed with sepsis, an extreme response to an infection that has spread through the bloodstream.

The number of sepsis cases per year has been on the rise in our country. According to the National Institute of General Medical Science, there are more than 1.6 million cases a year and at least 258,000 deaths.

Early Detection is Key

Sepsis attacks people of all ages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a patient’s risk of death increases with delayed recognition and treatment of sepsis. There is not one symptom of sepsis, but a combination of symptoms.

Education and keen assessment techniques are the keys to catching sepsis early. This education not only applies to patients, so they can recognize the signs of sepsis, but also healthcare professionals at all levels. Effective communication among team members is essential for promoting positive patient outcomes.

At Holy Name, all medical and nursing staff are trained to look for early signs of sepsis, which include:

  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Elevated temperature or even a low temperature
  • Changes in lab results
  • Reports of not feeling well

We also monitor for the late, and more serious signs:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Extreme pain
  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • Sleepiness or difficulty waking up
  • Pale or discolored skin
  • Low urine output
  • Chills
  • Dizziness
  • Low body temperature and shivering
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion

Should a patient present signs of sepsis, it is imperative that hospital staff act fast and run diagnostic tests to determine the source and severity of the infection. If the patient tests positive, it's critical that appropriate antibiotics are administered within less than one hour of diagnosis to reduce the risk of progression of disease.

It is equally important to contain the infection by following specific infection control practices such as:

  • Personal protective equipment
  • Negative-pressure rooms
  • Handwashing

Every One on the Team Can Stop Sepsis

Here at Holy Name, our Sepsis Committee is an interdisciplinary group of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, infectious disease experts, antibiotic specialists, and medical professionals who use a team approach to stopping sepsis.

The goal is to catch the infection early. Diagnosing a case of sepsis in the early stages is an important part of promoting positive patient outcomes. We can think of the infection in terms of a fire: It’s easier to put out a campfire than it is to extinguish a fire that can engulf a building. Septic shock, which is the figurative "burning building," can lead to respiratory failure, heart failure, and organ failure.

If you or a loved one has recently been ill, had an infection, or has had an invasive procedure – such as IV therapy, urinary catheter, surgery, or even a tattoo or piercing – and you suspect sepsis, call your healthcare provider and say, "I am concerned about sepsis." Or call 911 or go to a hospital Emergency Department and use those words.

To schedule an appointment with a Holy Name primary care provider, visit HolyNameMedicalPartners.org. Telemedicine appointments can be scheduled at NorthJerseyTelemedicine.com.