Ebola Preparedness

The physicians, nurses, clinicians and staff of Seton Healthcare Family take pride in being guardians of this community’s health. We welcome every patient, regardless of condition, religion, nation of origin or economic status, and provide the best care possible, with dignity and respect.

Meet Lynda Watkins, MPH, BSN, RN, CIC, Seton’s top infection preventionist, and view top links for staying informed.

Lynda is director of Infection Prevention and Control for Seton Healthcare Family’s Center for Experience and Effectiveness. She also is a member of Seton’s Biosafety and Control Task Force for Ebola Preparedness. Her husband and daughter are Seton nurses.

Are you nervous about Ebola?

I wouldn’t say nervous, but as infection preventionists (IPs) and Seton nurses, we have an understandable level of concern, especially after two nurses became infected in Dallas. It is this concern that keeps us working diligently on our response plan so that those at the bedside and those who support patient care are as prepared and protected as possible.

We know that, with proper equipment, training and a comprehensive plan, Ebola patients can be cared for safely, and that is exactly what the IPs, as a part of Seton’s larger biosafety task force, have made our singular priority.

I am definitely not nervous about the spread of Ebola in our community. Good news this week shows that transmission of Ebola is difficult in the early stages of the disease. More than 40 people in Dallas, including the emergency department staff that had first contact with an infected patient, have been removed from quarantine because they’ve gone at least 21 days without any symptoms. They don’t have Ebola, period. I also have confidence in our local and state public health team as they do contact tracing and follow up of those that may have been exposed.

Can Seton handle patients with infectious diseases?

As a team, we can and do. Communication is key. What the Dallas incidents showed is that we can continue to learn. We are retraining staff in personal protective equipment (PPE) and protocols, and we began training newly formed Special Response Teams this week.

We are monitoring guidance from the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention); communicating with our state and local health departments; and have had conversations with IPs at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and in the University of Nebraska biocontainment units.

What gives you confidence in Seton teams’ ability to care for Ebola patients?

The incredible associates at Seton. When the time comes to perform, they step up to meet the challenge.

I am always most encouraged when I talk to the caregivers at the bedside. They are so inspiring and are the embodiment of Seton’s mission.

There also has been a ton of work done in the past couple of weeks to prepare us for the possibility of an Ebola patient. Those of us that are doing that preparatory work are totally committed to keeping our associates and patients safe.

What would you tell someone in the general population about Ebola?

They should be concerned about any contagious virus that shows up in our community, but should keep in mind how Ebola is spread: You need direct, personal contact with an Ebola patient’s bodily fluids.

If you have a fever, but you haven’t recently been to any of the three African countries where Ebola is prevalent (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone), and you are not an identified contact of the one of the few confirmed Ebola patients in the U.S., then you don’t have Ebola.

More likely, you would have flu, which is why right now the best thing Central Texans can do to protect against a potentially dangerous virus is to get a flu shot. Flu afflicts 5 to 20 percent of Americans and kills thousands of people every year in the U.S. alone, according to the CDC.

How did you get into this line of work?

An Infection Control Practitioner (our old title) position was open, and I thought, “That sounds interesting and like something I could do.” What a stroke of luck that was.

Now, I have been working in Infection Prevention for almost 15 years and I still learn every day. It’s an amazingly interesting and challenging career, and I have an incredibly talented and motivated team of Infection Preventionists. I can’t see myself ever not working in Infection Prevention.

What has this experience taught you?

That this really is a small world, and that preparedness is a year-round necessity.

Seton infection preventionists started preparing for Ebola back in August, more than a month before a patient arrived in Dallas. Our work gave us a head start for when Ebola became a reality in the U.S.

We need to keep up our momentum from this experience and make sure we are ready for the next infectious disease threat.

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