Why you Need to Know About Sepsis
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1,700,000 people in the US develop sepsis every year. Of these 1.7 million, 270,000 die. Sepsis happens when an infection you already have —in your skin, lungs, urinary tract, or somewhere else—triggers a chain reaction throughout your body. This extreme reaction to an infection is a life-threatening medical emergency. Without timely treatment, sepsis can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death.
Because of its prevalence in the US, Val Verde Regional Medical Center (VVRMC) hosted and taught a Nursing Grand Rounds presentation on sepsis. Nursing Grand Rounds provides an education forum for nurses to share their experiences, expertise in order to improve patient outcomes and patient experience. The presentation was open to the community and was taught by Tara Vets Windle, RN/Clinical Educator at VVRMC. “By having an interactive presentation and exchange of ideas and challenges, we can make even more improvements to our sepsis protocol,” she said. Being nurses, the 15 participants knew about sepsis. The goal was to make sure the strict sepsis protocol was being followed by everyone. “Each patient who comes in to the emergency room is screened for sepsis. When nurses do a head to toe assessment on their patients upon receiving them, they check for sepsis. If there are any warning signs, the protocol is immediately put in place.” In order to make the information real, Lana Meissner, RN, ICU, presented a case study. The discussion was lively, questions got answered and ideas for improvement were developed.
What are the warning signs for sepsis? Symptoms can include rapid heart rate, fever, shivering, feeling cold, confusion, shortness of breath, extreme pain, and/or clammy skin. If a VVRMC patient exhibits two or more of these signs, a sepsis alert is noted and a blood test is taken to
determine if they have sepsis or not. If you or a family member exhibits these signs, get to the emergency room immediately. Time is critical with sepsis. The longer it goes untreated, the higher the risk of serious complications. The sooner the patient is treated with IV antibiotics specific to their infection, the better the outcomes.
The number of patients at VVRMC who become septic while in the hospital is quite low. However, there are a large number who come in to the emergency room already suffering from sepsis. This is why it is important to know the signs.
Who gets sepsis? Anyone can get sepsis but those are higher risk according to the CDC are those over 65 years of age, people with a chronic disease (examples include: diabetes, cancer, lung disease, kidney disease), those with a lowered immune system, and infants (under 1 year old.) According to the World Health Organization, one in six deaths worldwide can be attributed to sepsis.
To make sure you do not become a statistic, be aware of the warning signs of sepsis. If you have an infection that isn’t healing or have been sick and seem to be getting worse, get to a healthcare provider. The earlier sepsis is identified and treated, the better chance there is to get through it unscathed.