Local nurses confident they can protect themselves against Ebola risk

There have not been any Ebola cases in the northwest yet, but at least two medical facilities are preparing for the possibility of treating patients here. Virginia Mason and Harborview both say they have rooms ready. Doctors and nurses here have been paying attention to the Ebola cases in Texas, but they say they’re not worried about the virus spreading.

“The possibility of it being a pandemic or coming up here, i don’t think we’re at that level yet,” says Brandon McCafferty, a general surgery resident.

Ebola can be deadly. But Harborview staff says they encounter deadly illnesses every day.

“Ebola and the mention of it put people in a heightened state of awareness,” says nurse Roy Godwin. “That being said, it’s not unlike treating some of our other complex medical patients. We know how to protect ourselves, we know how to protect a patient.”

“On a daily basis, we’re in contact with people with HIV, with bad bacterial infections, viral infections,” adds McCafferty. “We take standard precautions with gowns and gloves. That’s sort of an ingrained part of being a resident, being a physician or any healthcare worker at the hospital.”

But the National Nurses Union isn’t so sure. They fired back after the CDC said there must have been a breach in protocol that led to the nurse in Texas becoming ill.

“We cannot blame the healthcare providers on the front lines who are risking their lives to provide care for patients,” says Katy Ronmer.

She says hospitals around the country are falling short.

“They are not providing the training we need, nor are they providing the personal protection we need to keep our patients, ourselves, our families and our communities safe.”

But staff at Harborview says they have been getting training. They know how to isolate Ebola patients in special rooms, and know the precautions to take so they can treat them safely.

“We would wear isolation gowns, gloves, masks, and facial shields,” says Godwin.

“We are currently being trained by infectious disease specialists and our administration is working with us,” says fellow nurse Gail Stewart. “I feel very confident that by the time we have an Ebola patient, even if that’s tomorrow, that I will be trained appropriately.”