Preparing Health Care Workers for Ebola – From Janitors to Nurses

October 15th, 2014 by Trudy Henson

The announcement that a second healthcare worker in Texas has been diagnosed with Ebola comes on the heels of a concerning statistic: three out of four nurses in the U.S. are saying they haven’t received proper education from their hospital on an Ebola response. Thirty percent say they don’t believe their hospitals have sufficient supplies, such as protective eyewear and fluid-proof gowns.

Spanish nurses had similar thoughts several months ago. In July, 100 Spanish nurses asked a court to review its defenses, because they believed Ebola was likely to arrive in Spain, and felt the healthcare system was ill-equipped to handle the response. The warning is now being seen as “prescient,” as Spanish authorities deal with a situation similar to that in Texas.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local hospital officials have stepped up trainings and education for Ebola identification and response. But the statistics are particularly concerning because nurses are considered the frontline of health response. Furthermore, ensuring nurses and healthcare staff feel safe will help reduce potential absenteeism.

A key to making nurses feel better-prepared may lie in conducting multiple trainings, during different shifts, and for multiple departments. Hospitals may be focusing on emergency departments, but as one nurse points out to Reuters, in many hospitals, “[t]he X-ray tech who comes into the room to do the portable chest X-ray is not trained. The transporter who pushes the stretcher is not trained.” In order to control potential infection, everyone from EMS transport to the janitorial staff should be educated on protocols.

recent survey found that, by a small margin, Americans believe that the U.S. is prepared for Ebola. Forty-two percent think the U.S. is not prepared enough. Those numbers may change, however, as Dallas officials warn more cases of Ebola are possible.


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