Public Health Nursing and Ebola

As the Ebola virus disease (EVD) continues to spread across West Africa, taking more than 4,000 lives thus far, there is an increasing global call to action to contain and halt the spread of this deadly disease. There have now been travel and treatment related cases diagnosed in Europe, Africa and the United States, raising additional concerns worldwide. The recent diagnosis of two Texas nurses with the Ebola virus has highlighted the need to strengthen and coordinate efforts to educate both the public, and more importantly, healthcare workers across the U.S. about prevention, containment and treatment.

As nurses, we are at the forefront of public health, and as such, we must be well educated, factual and responsible with the information and care we provide to others. At the urging of the American Nurses Association in their statement dated October 13, 2014, we at are doing our part to "engage in comprehensive education and preparedness activities in order to ensure the safety of the public and health care professionals."

As a part of our efforts to help create a workforce of educated nurses, our nurse editor took some time to ask a dedicated Public Health Nurse some basic questions about the EVD outbreak, including her thoughts on the importance of a well-coordinated response and best routes for dissemination of information during instances of public health crises.

A Public Health Nurse Responds to Q & A on Ebola

Georgetta Wright RN, MSN has been employed in the healthcare industry for 20 years with 14 of those years as a Registered Nurse. For the first two years of her nursing career, she practiced in a large teaching hospital. She has spent the last 12 years of her career working in Public Health Nursing.

1. In instances of public health crises, what do you consider the most effective routes of communication between the public and healthcare professionals?

I consider the news media and radio as venues of effective communication for healthcare professionals to quickly communicate a public health crisis to the public. I consider Social Media, mass text messaging, email & phone calls equally important.

What I consider the most effective route of communication to the public is verbal communication as demonstrated by a recent push to openly call for adequate safety measures for healthcare workers by a group of nurses in Oakland, California.

2. Where do you turn to for trusted information to stay informed regarding the global Ebola outbreak?

My favorite avenues to retrieve trusted information regarding any health related issue are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The World Health Organization (WHO) and The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). With recent outbreaks of Ebola virus disease here in the United States, I keep informed through CNN, world and local news media as well as social media.

3. What efforts have you and/or your employer made regarding the dissemination of information regarding Ebola to the public?

My first effort was to educate myself about the Ebola virus. As a healthcare worker, I understand there are several factors involved regarding my own risk of exposure while caring for the public. The more knowledgeable I become about the Ebola virus the more confident and capable I will be in educating others.

In my efforts to educate the public, I stay abreast of current events related to the EVD. I communicate this information via social media, email, text messages and verbal communication with friends, family and coworkers. Other efforts include participating in actions taken by my employer to distribute information through phone calls to plan members, and collaboration with community partners, physician groups and local healthcare facilities. I also take time to raise awareness by identifying resources from my local Public Health Department and community resource centers and making them available to the public.

4. What measures are you aware of that have been put in place to prepare healthcare workers in your region for possible cases of Ebola?

According to the California Healthline and a survey conducted by the National Nurses United, healthcare workers in California, particularly nurses, feel unprepared to handle possible Ebola cases. The biggest concerns are related to the lack of education, training, guidance and protocols to guide healthcare workers in the hospital setting on how to care for these patients.

For the most part, the area hospitals other than Kaiser Permanente have not yet commented on their protocols to handle an outbreak of Ebola virus disease in California. There are, however, efforts that are now being made to prepare in earnest for the possibility of Ebola patients in my region.

Other than implementing recommendations from the CDC, there are few specific measures that I am aware of that have been put in place to protect public health workers in the hospital or community health settings.

5. Given the severity of the situation, what do you feel is the most important thing we, as nurses, can do to help?

Be informed. Also, advocate for change; including the development and dissemination of protocols and policies to include better emergency preparedness training and education for nurses. In addition, advocate for effective screening and assessment protocols for patients entering emergency rooms, clinics or urgent care that are presenting with signs and symptoms of any communicable diseases.

As nurses, we have a responsibility to educate the public and ourselves as best we can about the best practices and standards of care that can help keep the public healthy. would like to thank Georgetta and all of the nurses and healthcare workers who are doing their part to spread information and education at this time. Nurses are at the forefront of public health, and we are dedicated to educating others about how to best care for patients and prevent the further spread of Ebola in the United States and abroad.

One of the most important things you can do to help is to educate yourself. You can find multiple resources online, as outlined above. You can also find nursing education resources that allow you to expand your role and impact in nursing on our site. Clinical nurse specialists, nurse leaders, nurse educators and policy makers are heeding the call to respond to this public health crisis, and you can too.

Follow the conversations on Facebook and Twitter and let us know what you are doing to help fight Ebola in the comments below.

An educated nurse is a powerful player in the healthcare team, and we are here to help connect you with the education resources you need to succeed.