September Is Sepsis Awareness Month


What is sepsis? Sepsis can occur in response to an infection, and the body’s defense mechanisms can become overwhelmed by the infection.

The pathogenic germs and toxins the infection produces can leave the original site of infection and enter the circulatory system, where they spread throughout the body.

Sepsis is often linked to lung infections, such as pneumonia, or urinary tract infections, such as the bladder or kidney. Sepsis can lead to shock, multiple organ failure and death if not recognized early and treated promptly. Sepsis is a medical emergency. But sepsis is also preventable, and raising awareness about sepsis is the first step.

There are many organization committed to eradication of sepsis, such as Surviving Sepsis Campaign, World Health Organization, and Centers for Disease Control.

In addition, there are private organizations whose members share their stories of how sepsis has impacted their lives as either survivor of sepsis or through loss of a loved one taken by sepsis. Spreading knowledge of sepsis is the goal of the Rory Staunton Foundation for Sepsis Prevention. In 2012, Rory Staunton’s parents received news they could not believe. Their 12-year-old son was gravely ill. Two days before a visit to the Emergency Room in New York, Rory dove for a basketball in the school gym and cut his arm. The wound was not cleaned, nor was it treated at school.

The boy quickly developed a high fever and was vomiting the next day. Rory was taken to his pediatrician and diagnosed with an upset stomach and dehydration. He was sent to the emergency room at a NY Medical Center. He received fluids and was advised to take Tylenol and sent home. Three days after he was sent home, he died of septic shock brought on by infection.

“We had not heard of sepsis before his death,” his parents wrote on the foundation website. “We discovered after his death that sepsis is the leading pediatric killer worldwide. It also kills more Americans than breast cancer, lung cancer and stroke combined.”

Since their son’s death, the Stauntons have worked to raise awareness of sepsis, by creating the foundation in his name. They raise awareness through education programs to promote faster diagnosis and effective treatment and urge implementation of rapid treatment protocols and improved education. In October of 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services required all hospitals to report outcomes of metrics shown to improve sepsis outcomes and reduce mortality from Sepsis. Lompoc Valley Medical Center reports all required elements of the sepsis measure to CMS.

Lompoc Valley Medical Center developed a Sepsis Team and Sepsis Committee comprised of nurses, physicians, an Infection Preventionist, Information Technology professionals and others. A Sepsis Coordinator was assigned to lead the project. The goal was to put systems and processes in place that aligned with the Sepsis Measure goals of early detection and intervention for patients at risk for Sepsis. Members worked with Infection Preventionists, Infectious Disease Specialists, and nurses across organizations to share best practice information, along with latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, Surviving Sepsis Campaign, and CMS.

Work is ongoing, and we have implemented sepsis specific questions and screening into the assessments of patients in all units of the hospital. We are also educating our staff. In 2015, Dr. Jeffrey Fried, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at Cottage Hospital, gave a lecture to the LVMC Medical Staff on sepsis recognition and treatment. Lompoc Valley Medical Center implemented extensive education for nurses and physicians in collaboration with CALSTAR in January 2016. In May 2016, LVMC hosted other facilities for sepsis simulation training. And for those who need it, required education on sepsis continues and is available in our online education library.

There are things you can do as a member of the public to understand sepsis and its dangers. Educate yourself on how to prevent sepsis and learn the symptoms. If you develop an infection, see your doctor.

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About the Author

Author: Melissa Debacker, MSN, RN, CPHQ, HACP, Quality Improvement Director

LVMC Director of Quality/Risk Management/Infection Prevention Melissa DeBacker has worked at LVMC for more than 30 years. She became Director of Quality/Risk Management/Infection Prevention in April 2013. She began as a Certified Nursing Assistant in 1981. She has worked in Central Supply, Outpatient Surgery, OB, Emergency Department, Critical Care Unit and Medical-Surgical. She was a Quality Improvement RN from 2009 to 2013. She is a graduate of Cabrillo High School and earned her bachelor’s of science degree in nursing in 2015. She earned a Master’s of Science in Nursing Administration and Leadership, with honors, from Western Governors University

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