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National Nurse Survey Shows Hospitals Still Not Prepared for U.S. Ebola Patients

RNRN Press Release, 10/3/14

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80% say their hospital has not provided policy for admission of potential infected patients

Following reports that a Dallas hospital failed to hospitalize a patient infected with the Ebola virus and failed to properly communicate essential information to caregivers about his health status, National Nurses United is stepping up the call on U.S. hospitals to immediately upgrade emergency preparations for Ebola in the U.S.

Several weeks ago, National Nurses United began surveying registered nurses across the U.S. about emergency preparedness.  Most of the nurses are telling NNU that their hospital is not prepared for the Ebola virus.

In updated preliminary results from nearly 700 RNs at over 250 hospitals in 31 states released Friday:

  • 80 percent say their hospital has not communicated to them any policy regarding potential admission of patients infected by Ebola
  • 87 percent say their hospital has not provided education on Ebola with the ability for the nurses to interact and ask questions
  • One-third say their hospital has insufficient supplies of eye protection (face shields or side shields with goggles) and fluid resistant/impermeable gowns
  • Nearly 40 percent say their hospital does not have plans to equip isolation rooms with plastic covered mattresses and pillows and discard all linens after use, less than 10 percent said they were aware their hospital does have such a plan in place
  • More than 60 percent say their hospital fails to reduce the number of patients they must care for to accommodate caring for an “isolation” patient

NNU is calling for all U.S. hospitals to immediately implement a full emergency preparedness plan for Ebola, or other disease outbreaks. That includes:

  • Full training of hospital personnel along with proper protocols and training materials for responding to outbreaks,
  • Adequate supplies of Hazmat suits and other personal protective equipment
  • Properly equipped isolation rooms to assure patient, visitor and staff safety,
  • Sufficient staffing to supplement nurses and other health workers who need to care for patients in isolation.

At a rally of 1,000 nurses last week in Las Vegas, “we warned that it was just a matter of time in an interconnected world that we would see Ebola in the U.S. Now, everyone should recognize that Texas is not an island either, and as we’ve heard from nurses across the U.S., hospitals here are not ready to confront this deadly disease,” said NNU executive director RoseAnn DeMoro.

The Dallas case, where the infected patient was sent home after arriving at the hospital, hardly provides any reassurance, said NNU.

Hospital officials reportedly told the media they had done one drill, “but nurses and other hospital staff work around the clock. One drill is hardly sufficient.,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN, director of NNU’s Registered Nurse Response Network which is coordinating NNU’s Ebola response

What our surveys show is a reminder that we do not have a national health care system, but a fragmented collection of private healthcare companies each with their own way of responding,” Castillo said.

Media reports have indicated that the Dallas patient’s exposure was not properly communicated to hospital staff.  But, Castillo added, it’s not just a failure to communicate, but also a reminder that hospitals should not just rely on automated protocols with computerized scripts for interacting with patients.

“As we have been saying for many months, electronic health records systems can, and do, fail. That’s why we must continue to rely on the professional, clinical judgment and expertise of registered nurses and physicians to interact with patients, as well as uniform systems throughout the U.S. that is essential for responding to pandemics, or potential pandemics, like Ebola,” Castillo said.

Finally, Castillo said criminalizing the patient in Dallas or elsewhere is “exactly the wrong approach and will do nothing to stop Ebola or any other pandemic.”

NNU is also calling for significant increases in provision of aid, financial, personnel, and protective equipment, from the U.S., other governments, and private corporate interests to the nations in West Africa directly affected to contain and stop the spread of Ebola.

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