What is sepsis?Sepsis is an overwhelming response to infection and may be fatal.
Anyone of any age and health condition can get sepsis, because anyone can get an infection. Children, elderly people, people with chronic diseases, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have an infection, and therefore more likely to get sepsis.
Sepsis can get worse and become severe sepsis, which can then progress into septic shock. Septic shock usually requires a person to spend time in the ICU.
What are the symptoms of sepsis?Remember the saying “It’s about TIME” to remember the symptoms of sepsis.
Temperature – A higher or lower temperature than normal.
Infection – Any kind of infection can lead to sepsis, including localized infection such as an infected cut on a finger or a more general infection such as pneumonia. You may also have an infection and not know it, especially if you have recently had surgery or another medical procedure, a break in your skin, or have recently been exposed to someone who is sick.
Mental Decline – If you are confused, abnormally sleepy, or difficult to wake up. Elderly people may have worsening dementia and confusion.
Extremely Ill – The worst pain you have ever felt, or feeling like you might die.
If you or a loved one has a combination of these signs, call 911 or go to the emergency room and say that you are concerned about sepsis.
What can I do to prevent sepsis?
Sepsis is caused by infections, so preventing infections can help prevent sepsis. Some of the steps you can take are:
- Take proper care of chronic conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease.
- Get your recommended vaccinations at the appropriate times.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Cover cuts and keep them cleaned until they are healed.
- Know the symptoms of sepsis.
- If you suspect that you or a loved one may have sepsis, immediately get medical care. Sepsis is a medical emergency.
What is Bon Secours doing to prevent and treat sepsis?
Bon Secours has 5 system-wide programs to identify and treat sepsis as quickly as possible.
Screening all emergency department patients. During triage in all Bon Secours emergency departments, patients are screened for sepsis. If a patient screens positive, the electronic health records system makes it easy to start standardized protocols for treatment. A nurse will start lab work, insert an IV, and begin giving the patient fluids. A physician is alerted who will prescribe antibiotics.
Inpatient rapid response team. If any existing patient has changes that might indicate sepsis, a staff member can activate the rapid-response team of specially-trained team members to start the sepsis treatment protocols.
Standardized care. Interventions ordered by providers are evidence-based, or based on published scientific papers, and are standardized across the system. The electronic health record groups together the actions needed for care so they can be ordered together, saving valuable time.
Early warning system in the electronic health record. When a provider or nurse opens the electronic health record of a patient who might have symptoms of sepsis, an alert pops up. The provider or nurse must screen the patient for sepsis and, if the patient screens positive, can quickly start treatment for sepsis. The electronic health record helps identify patients who might be septic but who come in with many different problems, so their septic symptoms are not masked by other symptoms.
Sepsis Nurse Expert Credentialing Program. This internal program credentials nurses to be experts on sepsis. Nurses must apply and recertify regularly, and demonstrate expertise in knowledge of sepsis and care of septic patients, including required amounts of continuing education every year. They can be identified by a special pin on their badge, and serve as a resource for others in the hospital when caring for septic patients.
Thank you to Bon Secours emergency department staff for their help. Additional Sources: Sepsis Alliance and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention