Nurses take on Ebola

The news media kept a constant presence outside Bellevue Hospital during Dr. Spencer’s stay.

For Anne Bové, RN, the release of Dr. Craig Spencer on November 11 followed many weeks of extraordinary vigilance and effort. Even today, New York hospitals, Bellevue chief among them, have to be prepared in the event a patient with the Ebola Virus Disease might arrive. The virus continues to rage in parts of West Africa and caregivers and others from the region who might be exposed pass through New York. This fall, hundreds in New York were required to self-examine and report in to health authorities on a daily basis.

Anne recalled the first day Spencer arrived. “I stayed up the entire night,” she remembered, “to make sure staff had resources and support they needed.” She described the anteroom, a clean zone where RNs donned and doffed their Personal Protective Equipment – PPEs.

Courageous caregivers

“I cannot begin to describe the enormous sense of pride I have for the RNs who treated Dr. Spencer and for the support staff that assisted them,” said Anne. “These are courageous caregivers who put their patients above all else.”

For Anne, the public hospital system, lynchpin of the New York City’s public health system, represents the future of healthcare in the nation. “No matter,” says Anne, “no matter a patient’s condition or ability to pay, no matter the immigration status. Our doors are open. We refuse no one.” Giving patient need the top priority is Anne’s moral and professional code. She has been a force in making the city’s public hospital system the most extensive, and respected, in the nation.

Communicable diseases

Bellevue stood out in the Ebola crisis, as the premiere destination in the state. “Training was every day, supplies were reviewed, we put a process in place. Documentation. Monitoring. We asked, ‘What systems are in place to avoid contamination?’”

Anne has seen much in a nursing career that spans more than 30 years. She dealt with MRSA – “it helped me put aside my fears.” An introduction and education on how to handle communicable diseases were essential, she says. During her tenure, Anne has seen and helped treat patients with AIDS and resistant TB. (Bellevue played a key role in the development of HAART, a breakthrough in the treatment of AIDS.)

“We saw what happened to the two nurses in Dallas and it was shocking to us,” she said, referring to Ebola exposure from a patient at Dallas Presbyterian Hospital. In New Jersey, lack of preparedness coupled with unprofessional isolation techniques troubled Anne. “Every ER should have an isolation room,” she said. “This should not be exceptional.”

Bellevue’s special TB unit gave it a leg up in preparedness. The quarantine section in that unit was the source of relevant training.

“Bellevue took its basic quarantine unit and upgraded it,” explained Lisa Baum, NYSNA’s Occupational Health & Safety representative. “They enclosed a unit within a unit, built walls and doors, and communication system,” she said. Experts at Emory and Nebraska, where top contamination units are located, shared information and direction.

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