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A Nurse Gets Sepsis – What the Experience Taught Me

Written by Mark H. Johnson, MHA, RN-BC, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, Vice President, Sales and Marketing - iatricSystems

Years ago, I was working on an oncology unit when I picked up a nosocomial infection which morphed into sepsis. Halfway through a twelve-hour shift, I dropped to my knees and couldn’t walk. My blood pressure was dropping, I had chills and was shaking uncontrollably. My temperature was 104.3F, which made my head feel like it was going to explode. Luckily, I made it to the emergency room (with help from some coworkers and a shaking wheelchair).

I spent the next seven days as an inpatient receiving round-the-clock IV Vancomycin, Flagyl, and Gentamicin doses. They finally got the infection under control; however, the experience really scared my wife and kids. I even scared my doctor, who thought I would have to be transferred to the medical university. After I was discharged, I took 70 days of Cipro by mouth — way beyond the standard dosage — to keep the infection from returning. In short, I was a very sick man, but glad to be alive.

As I recovered, I had a chance to reflect. One thing was apparent: it was striking how quickly the condition progressed. One day I felt fine, the next day I was very sick and quickly getting worse. But I was also fortunate. When I collapsed, I happened to be in a hospital, where I received swift attention by people who specialized in treating severe and unusual infections. But, if I had been far from medical care or if the providers who treated me were less experienced, I might not have been so lucky.

So sepsis is something I’ve experienced firsthand. It made me a better nurse and I take it very seriously. The experience also had a strong influence on the direction my career has taken. Today, working with the Sepsis Management team at Iatric Systems, I see sepsis through the eyes of a patient as well as a nurse. That awareness has helped us develop a solution that allows hospitals to manage sepsis more effectively, and save patient lives. I’m constantly reminded: I was that patient. I want to help.

I also know that hospitals have to do a better job if they’re going to improve sepsis outcomes and reduce huge costs. With so many patients suffering what I went through (or worse), these issues really hit home with me:

  • Hospitals need to detect and treat sepsis in its early stages (most important).
  • They also need to make sure that patient information from the ER is available on the patient floor.
  • Continuous monitoring and evaluation of possible sepsis indicators makes a big difference.
  • Caregivers need to be alerted immediately to significant changes or trends.
  • Alerted caregivers need to intervene quickly and appropriately, before the patient’s condition worsens.

I’m glad to see these principles built into our Sepsis Management solution. We've worked hard to build a solution that combines automated monitoring, evaluation, alerting, and reporting across all stages of sepsis. 

Many of us have had a similar experience witnessing a patient or loved one's swift decline so it is gratifying to know that early sepsis detection is finally being brought to the forefront.

And if my experience with sepsis helps save patient lives, then I can view that experience — horrible as it was — in a more positive light.

Discover the Capabilities of Automated Sepsis Management

Topics: severe sepsis, sepsis associated readmissions, sepsis hospital deaths, sepsis risk of death, sepsis expenses, sepsis measures compliance

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