Nurses are first line of defense for screening sepsis

Nurse Leader Insider, February 2, 2017

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The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) released a new core measure that mandates evidence-based care and reporting for all patients with sepsis, encouraging nurses to take a more active role in sepsis prevention.

CMS reports that sepsis is a rising cause of death in the U.S., citing a 31% increase in the five-year period from 1999 through 2004. Because of this increase, CMS released the Severe Sepsis and Septic Shock Management Core Measure in 2015, which includes a Surviving Sepsis Campaign aimed toward frontline caregivers.

As the frontline staff in hospital settings, it’s important that nurses are able to recognize the early signs of sepsis, particularly in the emergency department (ED), intensive care units (ICU), and patient wards. Early recognition and timely care intervention is the key to reducing the morbidity and mortality rates associated with sepsis.

In California, Sutter Health instituted a pilot program designed to improve early identification and intervention of sepsis in the ED and ICU. The program educated nurses on the pathophysiology of systemic inflammatory response syndrome and the sepsis continuum; created a sepsis screening tool to screen every patient during routine assessments and any condition changes; and developed a workflow that included the rapid response team after confirmation of a positive sepsis screen.

The nurse-driven program yielded impressive results, with a 50% reduction in mortality from severe sepsis and septic shock after one year of using the program. Sutter Health has expanded the program, leading to a system-wide dissemination.

According to the report from Sutter Health, Nurse engagement is the key factor to implementing a sepsis program. Leadership should include frontline staff in the process and implementation, and educate nurses about the rationale behind adding sepsis screenings to their workflow can drive engagement and improve patient outcomes.

See related articles on sepsis: Process improvements in the ED increase sepsis bundle compliance, reduce mortality

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