Sepsis has been a growing threat, and is now the second greatest cause of death, with cardiovascular disease being the leading cause. More people die each year because of sepsis than from cancer around the world. This is concerning because sepsis is easily preventable. Although mortality has fallen between the beginning of the study (1990) and its conclusion (2017), this ailment should not be such a significant cause of death as there are ample signs that should trigger reactions before it becomes a serious problem.
The article covers the 11 easy things nurses can do to reduce the risk of sepsis for their patients. Note that these rules also apply to doctors and surgeons, but nurses tend to spend more time with the patients, so they should be more aware of ways to reduce this potentially deadly problem.
1. Always wash your hands before seeing a patient or put on latex gloves. For guidelines, review the information at the CDC hand hygiene guidelines for healthcare workers.
2. Encourage your patients to move around as much as possible as movement helps reduce sepsis risks.
3. Don’t procrastinate to give patient antibiotics if they have an infection. A concerningly high number of healthcare providers contribute to septic shock because they waited to give patients antibiotics.
4. Listen to your patients. Some of them may simply have a lower pain tolerance or a proclivity to complaining, but most of them are expressing pain or discomfort that you should take seriously. Those complaints could be an early warning of sepsis or inflammation.
5. Regularly review the common signs of infections. Even if you commit the signs to memory, it is good to have a regular reminder.
6. Wear protective clothing when needed to avoid spreading germs and bacteria between patients.
7. Make a daily habit of inquiring if infection-inducing devices can be removed. These devices are usually not meant to be perpetually hooked up to the patient, so they should be removed when they are not required.
8. Always consider infection when checking with a patient about other issues. It could be a contributing factor to problems, or it could be the primary cause.
9. Do a complete history review of a patient to better understand the presentation of sepsis. For example, a patient who normally has low blood pressure during a hospital stay may not historically have low blood pressure, in which case it could be a sign of sepsis.
10. Similarly, consider what you would expect each patient’s body temperature to be for their condition. For example, a patient who has a kidney infection or who is elderly likely tends to have a lower body temperature. If one of these patients appears to have a normal temperature, this should be a warning flag as it is out of the norm for the condition.
11. Establish a healthy balance of fluids to hypotensive, septic patients.
For more details, check out 11 Most Common Mistakes Nurses and APPs Make When Preventing and Treating Sepsis.