How to prevent the transmission of influenza
nurse in a hospital environment — and other healthcare workers including a student conducting a capstone requirement — must take great precautions when it comes to infectious diseases like influenza. Not only does the healthcare professional need to protect patients, the professional must take all available steps to be sure he or she is protected before serving others in the hospital.
This is a SWOT analysis of a student nurse who is following (shadowing) a Registered Nurse working on a floor where there are infectious diseases. The analysis begins with the Strengths that the nurse must exhibit while at work on her floor; followed by the Weaknesses that are apparent or expected; next are the Opportunities; followed by the Threats that the student nurse must learn about and relate to.
Being forewarned is being fore-armed for protection, and in the case of the infectious disease influenza, every fall doctors and healthcare professionals warn the public about the importance of flu shots. Hence, the RN must have had a flu shot, and the student nurse shadowing her must also have had a flu shot. The strength of a flu shot is that it practically assures the person will not become infected.
Healthcare workers are required to get a flu shot, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Healthcare workers should understand that it is likely that more than 200,000 persons will be hospitalized this year from “influenza-related complications” (CDC), and between 5% and 20% of the U.S. population will come down with influenza (CDC). Hence it is vitally important that healthcare workers and their patients should get the flu shots.
Just knowing how to prevent the transmission of influenza is a strength for a nurse. The influenza viruses can spread when someone sneezes. “Droplets only travel short distances (approximately 6 feet or less) through the air” (CDC). However a person’s hands can transfer the virus, and “diarrheal stools” and other bodily fluids can be considered potentially infectious, hence, another strength of a nurse is to be fully informed in everything about influenza and how it travels from one person to another.
Knowing the importance of cough etiquette is also a strength for a nurse; and that includes wearing a facemask — and providing a mask for all patients that may be susceptible to the airborne virus particles.
In the hospital environment — even if the nurse is taking precautions — healthcare workers including nurses can become infected. It is possible that patients on the floor have not been vaccinated, and it is possible that the nurse has not been vaccinated (some people become ill after a flu shot and hence they resist getting vaccinated each fall and winter season). That presents a definite weakness. If a nurse (or a healthcare worker) gets a fever, immediately that person should be kept out of work for “at least 24 hours after they no long have a fever”; the person’s fever could be brought down by taking acetaminophen (CDC).
The weakness here is that some people are simply going to get the flu virus, and if they are at work they could transmit to patients — and a patient with the influenza virus can get “severe diseaseâ€¦and have prolonged viral shedding despite antiviral treatment and expose other patients to influenza” (CDC). It is also possible for a nurse to have “respiratory symptoms without fever” and in that case she needs to be evaluated by a doctor and given some time off to deal with the problem (CDC).
Another weakness in the system is that administrators at the hospital don’t know who has had the vaccinations and who hasn’t. This could lead to serious problems. A healthcare worker might have been in a bookstore and a person in there has sneezed; that person may not know he or she has the flu virus but the contagiousness of the virus is very serious in any event.
The very fact that the flu season is in full swing — as it is every year — provides an opportunity for a hospital to put its knowledge and experiences vis-a-vis the influenza virus to work. Staff meetings, memos, face-to-face reminders, nursing leadership in its best form, all these events could be used to educate workers, patients, and administrators.
A person answering the phone in the main lobby may believe that she is not potentially a victim of the influenza virus, but she is as likely as anyone working in the building to get the virus. This is an opportunity to educate administrative personnel. Also this is an opportunity for the hospital to educate the public through public service announcements (on radio, the Internet and television) and other visual media. This is also an opportunity to update all healthcare employees regarding: hand hygiene (washing thoroughly before and after all patient contact; using gloves); gloves (any time gloves are used with a patient, those gloves must be discarded; gowns (when leaving care of a patient when contact has been made with excretions, body fluids, secretions, and blood, the gown must be put in the wash cycle and the nurse must thoroughly wash hands) (CDC).
The threat is very serious during the flu season and when a person is training for work as a nurse in the hospital the threat should be taken seriously. As mentioned in the preceding pages, the threat posed by influenza is very serious and can cause illness that is serious enough for hospitalization. Influenza affects “more than 60 million people in the U.S. every year” and between 3,000 and 49,000 people “die from influenza-related complications” (National Foundation for Infectious Diseases). Because people become very ill, have a need for hospitalization, and even die from influenza, the threat is very real and very dangerous.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Influenza. Retrieved November 15, 2014,
National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. (2010). Influenza (Flu). Retrieved November
15, 2014, from http://www.nfid.org.
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