Idaho Nurses Concerned But Not Scared About Ebola

Oct 15, 2014

Credit Monash University / Flickr Creative Commons

Nurses are worried about Ebola after nurses in Texas and Spain contracted the disease while caring for infected patients. A survey from the organization National Nurses United says most nurses have serious concerns about how prepared their employers are to deal with Ebola.

Justin Day, emergency nurse manager for St. Alphonsus Hospitals in Boise and Eagle says St. Al's nurses don't expect to see Ebola cases.

“The general feeling here is that we’re at pretty low risk," Day says. "We’re fairly isolated. Our airport is not a major hub.”

Kimberly Berry, emergency services director at St Luke’s Hospital in Boise agrees that Idaho is unlikely to see an Ebola case. Berry adds Dallas probably didn’t expect a case either. She says when she heard two nurses there had contracted Ebola her heart sank. She describes it as "a gut punch and a wakeup call."

At St. Al's, Day says nurses are concerned.

“It’s scary. It is," Day says. "As healthcare professionals we realize that there is inherent risk with our jobs. We come in contact with these patients. We’re usually the first line. So, yeah fear can take over but it’s very important to keep it in perspective.”

For perspective, Day says there are other contagious diseases nurses do sometimes contract at work. Those include the flu, pertussis, even tuberculosis. He says those diseases are bigger threats to Idaho nurses than Ebola. He also believes St. Al’s is ready if Ebola does come to Idaho. Day says most nurses on staff share his confidence, but some are more worried than others.

“There might be some people out there, you know our part-time people, that may need a little more training, reassurance," Days says. "We’re catching everyone up and things are changing so we have to continually make sure we reach out to everyone.”

A St. Al’s spokesman says the hospital is working closely with the state and the Centers for Disease Control on a thorough plan for responding to Ebola in Idaho. He also says St. Al’s facilities and equipment are up to the potential challenge. That includes isolation facilities, protective suits and a computer algorithm that assesses patients’ risk of having the disease.

Berry, at St. Luke's, says nurses are practicing putting on and removing protective gear, and screening patients based on their travel history.

Find reporter Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

Copyright 2014 Boise State Public Radio