Sepsis: Keeping Patients Safe during COVID-19

Bandaging sepsis patientBy Cherry Odom, BSN, RN-BC

If you or your loved one has an abnormal temperature, an infection, mental confusion or is extremely ill, do you know what to do? “Don’t wait,” said Angela Morrow, BSN, RN, a sepsis coordinator at Mission Hospital. “Be aware of the signs and seek urgent medical care right away.”

“It is all about time,” said Jeanie Bollinger, MSN, RN, ACCNS-AG, CCRN-K, an Acute Care Clinical Nurse Specialist at Mission Health “A patient’s outcome is very dependent on how soon we detect and treat infection. If we miss that early window, the patient’s risk for death is so much higher.” When infection becomes sepsis, organ dysfunction results and affects areas such as the brain, kidneys, liver, lungs and heart.

Tony Spensieri, MD, FHM, Chief Medical Officer for Mission Hospital, has a background in internal medicine and “a passion for sepsis.” He worked with Kathy Spirito, vice president, Quality and Safety at Mission Hospital, and Bollinger to establish the sepsis coordinator position. Bollinger recommended Morrow, an Emergency Department (ED) nurse and high performer in the recognition of sepsis signs, for the job.

Dr. Spensieri added that having Morrow as the dedicated sepsis coordinator in the ED, where three-fourths of patients with sepsis are seen, facilitates early recognition and treatment with antibiotics and other interventions so crucial for better patient outcomes.

Morrow and Bollinger provide sepsis early-recognition education to nurses across Mission Health through onsite classroom and mobile simulation lab mannequin experiences. They also educated some 500 regional emergency medical services (EMS) personnel over the last year, empowering them to make the call to alert ED staff, establish IV access and draw lab tests using the sepsis protocol from the North Carolina Office of EMS.

Morrow is also a clinical instructor at Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College for the EMS program and instructs students to watch for signs of infection coupled with abnormal vital signs, as possible indicators of sepsis.

Bollinger stated that standardized assessment and treatment protocols are used in all hospitals across the western North Carolina division. Protocols were established for Mission Health medical providers and nurses based on the guidelines of the Surviving Sepsis Campaign, a joint initiative of the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine.

Code sepsis is called at all hospitals for patients in the ED and inpatient areas to summon teams of staff, such as respiratory therapy, phlebotomy, the nursing supervisor and Rapid Response, for immediate assistance, as when someone is having a stroke or heart attack.

Bollinger encouraged patients with any of the symptoms to seek help immediately. “We have precautions in place to keep you safe in this time of COVID-19,” she said.

Dr. Spensieri said that recognition and treatment of sepsis involves a dedicated team effort to review and aim for exceptional patient care. “I am very proud to be part of an organization that is constantly striving to be better for the benefit of our patients and the communities we serve,” he said.


Angela Morrow, BSN, RN, is a sepsis coordinator at Mission Hospital.
Jeanie Bollinger, MSN, RN, ACCNS-AG, CCRN-K, is an Acute Care Clinical Nurse Specialist at Mission Health.
Tony Spensieri, MD, FHM, is Chief Medical Officer for Mission Hospital.

Mission Health is capable and committed to improving the health and wellness of the people of western North Carolina. To learn more about our services, visit missionhealth.org [2].