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A Nurse’s Personal Story of Sepsis and a Healthcare-associated Infection

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog
Sherrie Dornberger RN, GDCN, CADDCT, CDP, CDONA, FACDONA
Sherrie Dornberger RN, GDCN, CADDCT, CDP, CDONA, FACDONA

Guest Author: Sherrie Dornberger RN, GDCN, CADDCT, CDP, CDONA, FACDONA
Executive Director, National Association of Directors of Nursing Administration in Long Term Care (NADONA)

As a professional nurse turned patient, I have personally experienced the turmoil caused by poor healthcare delivery. I became a victim to a healthcare-associated infection (HAI), amongst other medical issues, while receiving medical care. Through a series of unfortunate medical errors, I became the victim of a full fledged case of sepsis throughout my body that left me in a coma for over a week in Intensive Care. Having a rich career in long-term care nursing, I quickly became a patient who was helpless to protect myself against further harm. Every patient should demand high quality medical care in all healthcare settings, both inpatient and outpatient – safer healthcare is possible.

As a long-term care nursing professional, I know it is imperative to properly use antibiotics to protect the safety of residents cared for across the U.S. in various long-term care settings, most notably skilled nursing facilities. Antibiotics should be used to treat actual infections and not used to treat asymptomatic residents due to the risk of developing antibiotic resistance. These drugs can work miracles for patients, but only when we use these medications carefully and appropriately. The microbes have no boundaries, so we must aggressively preserve our arsenal of antibiotics so that they will remain effective for patients, like me, when they need them most.

Each of us, patients and healthcare providers, plays a unique, yet equally critical role in preventing HAIs and sepsis in addition to reducing the development of antibiotic resistance. I live daily with the long-term effects of low quality care from a healthcare exposure. It is my professional and personal goal to ensure that all patients across the continuum of care receive the highest quality clinical care possible so others do not suffer the same tragedies that I have endured over the last few years. The National Association of Directors of Nursing Administration in Long Term Care stands alongside the CDC in this fight against superbugs and sepsis.

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog

5 comments on “A Nurse’s Personal Story of Sepsis and a Healthcare-associated Infection”

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    Hello Sherrie,
    My name is Alyssa, and I am currently studying to become a medical laboratory scientist and am familiar with the over use of antibiotics in the clinical setting. I wanted to say thank you for sharing your story and showing that poor healthcare delivery can happen to anyone, even those who work in the field. Wishing you the best in health.

    I agree, WE can do something about the serious and ever growing problem of antibiotic resistance. As a nurse , I was taught that all we have to do to prevent an infection is to break, one link in the chain of infection. With this same concept in mind , I believe the nursing professionals in LTC ( and other healthcare settings ) are a “link” in the chain of antibiotic resistance and antibiotic stewardship . I am referring to the nursing professional as the conduit of communication within the healthcare setting. Nursing professionals need to solidify their skills of assessing for signs and symptoms of infection and NOT communicate an incomplete picture of the resident/patient, that may begin the implementation of a potentially inappropriate antibiotic regimen. In order to do so, nursing professionals need to become competent in the defining criteria for infections ( such as McGeer’s ) , complete a thorough assessment of the resident/ patient and possess the competence and confidence to communicate this information to the medical provider. Finally nursing professionals need to arm themselves with the clinical courage to challenge physicians , residents/ patients and their families ,when they suspect that antibiotics are potentially inappropriate.

    Sherrie, It was with much courage and strength that you chose to recount that dark period in your life, and tell the story of your continuing daily pain. We all have to safeguard the patients in our charge who are helpless to guard themselves against tragic mistakes. I count myself proud to have been one of, “your nurses” who watched you turn a horrific experience into both a warning, and an inspiring message to other health care professionals….Keep up the good fight!

    Thanks so much for sharing this story. Judicious use of antimicrobials to prevent resistance is an urgent charge for the LTC community. I am proud to be a NADONA member standing strong in this fight.Thanks for your leadership.
    Deb

    We all need to work together to make the world of healthcare safer…safer for the patient/resident….safer for the healthcare professionals….safer for the community at large.

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