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Stopping Sepsis

A nurse, an actress, a tennis player, all in the prime of their lives, all struck down by a deadly bacteria that doesn't discriminate.

Posted by Scott Cooper, MSED, MBA, BSN, RN, CCRN-K, NEA-BC on September 13, 2018


A nurse, an actress, a tennis player, all in the prime of their lives, all struck down by a deadly bacteria that doesn't discriminate.

"The number of sepsis cases per year has been on the rise in the United States," says Scott Cooper, MSEd, MBA, BSN, RN, CCRN-K, NEA-BC, Director of Professional Practice Excellence at Holy Name Medical Center.

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition in which the body fights a severe infection that has spread through the bloodstream.

Every 20 seconds, according to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, someone is diagnosed with sepsis leading to more than 1.6 million cases a year and at least 258,000 deaths.

On September 13, World Sepsis Day, the hope is those numbers may soon be reduced as more people are made aware of this bacterial infection.

“Education and keen assessment techniques are the key to catching sepsis early,” says Scott. “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. Holy Name Medical Center has an 'A' safety rating from The Leapfrog Group for infection control.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a patient’s risk of death increases with delayed recognition and treatment of sepsis. But at Holy Name, all medical and nursing staff are trained to look for these sepsis signs:

  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Chills
  • Dizziness
  • Low Body Temperature and Shivering
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Mental 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 in less than one hour of diagnosis to decrease the risk of progression of disease,” explains Scott.

It is equally important to contain the infection by following specific infection control practices, so that the infection remains contained.

“Here at Holy Name, our Sepsis Committee is an interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, infectious disease experts, antibiotic specialists, and medical professionals who take an interdisciplinary team approach to stopping sepsis,” notes Scott.

The goal, he says, is to catch the infection early. “Catching 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, and it's easier to put out a campfire than it is to extinguish a fire that can engulf a building.” explains Scott. Septic shock, which is the figurative “burning building” can lead to respiratory failure, heart failure, and organ failure.

World Sepsis Day 2018 is expected to be the biggest yet, with countless events around the world, including public events such as open days in hospitals and healthcare facilities.