In mid-July 2014, Emory Healthcare received a request to transfer two patients with confirmed Ebola virus disease (EVD) from Liberia. The decision to accept these patients resulted in activation and rapid expansion of the Serious Communicable Disease Unit (SCDU) team, directed by Carolyn Hill, MSN, RN-BC in partnership with Medicine Specialty Director Janice Gentry, Chief Nursing officer Nancye Feistritzer,and EHC System Chief Nurse Executive Susan Grant. Intense public interest and concern followed the decision and was widely covered in the national and international news media.
Education and information to the Emory community and the general public was an additional area of focus as preparations proceeded to activate the SCDU. The protocols for management of hemorrhagic fever were reviewed and modified, given the strong possibility of contamination from massive amounts of diarrhea and vomiting associated with EVD. The interdisciplinary team agreed Tyvek suits and powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) hoods, coupled with contact and droplet precautions were the best option to ensure optimal protection.
Members of the team included critical care and medical surgical nurses, along with a host of interdisciplinary partners. A combined team of administrators and clinical leaders organized the operational protocols to ensure both patient and staff safety in caring for patients with a highly contagious disease. Sharon Vanairsdale, a clinical nurse specialist with emergency services/response experience, oversaw the standard operating procedures, both initial rapid cycle and ongoing education and competency validation.
The SCDU team is a robust, highly professional team functioning in a competent, collaborative manner, working together to achieve excellent outcomes. To date, the EBV team has cared for 5 patients, and all have left the hospital to return to their homes for additional recovery. Team members provided exceptional service to both patients and their significant others. All accepted full accountability for patient and staff safety, constantly communicated their intentions during patient care using a buddy system, and with utmost precision, followed through on their commitments to patients and each other.