What is sepsis?
A medical emergency like a heart attack or stroke, sepsis is a serious condition caused by the body’s overwhelming immune response to infection. “Your whole system basically goes into an inflammatory state and starts to attack itself instead of protecting itself,” Ms. Stromoski explains.
Without timely recognition of symptom onset and appropriate treatment with antibiotics, sepsis can progress very quickly to severe sepsis or septic shock, causing organ damage or failure. Death occurs in up to 50 percent of the cases. Those who survive may suffer long-term complications.
“A lot of these patients sometimes end up not being able to return to the same baseline neurological status,” says Ms. Stromoski. “Maybe they are ventilator dependent and cannot breathe on their own. Maybe they now need lifetime dialysis because their kidneys have been destroyed.”
Focused on the patient
At Shadyside, the Sepsis Program is built on nurses’ skill in observing their patients attentively. “Nurses are on the front lines,” says Dr. McComb. “Sepsis can have very subtle changes that occur over time. It really comes down to the nurse and critical thinking skills on assessing the patient.”
“All the technology in the world cannot really assess a human like another human can,” believes Ms. Stromoski, a former ICU nurse.
She began the program by coordinating a hospital-wide, multidisciplinary sepsis committee, which developed evidence-based, protocol-driven orders for intervening. A nurse-driven sepsis screening process was also developed.
Unit by unit, she educated nurses. A Sepsis Team is now available to respond rapidly to a patient’s bedside to provide timely, life-saving interventions, including antibiotics within the first hour of recognition.
“I think we are one of the few institutions that can get antibiotics to patients within this time frame,” says Ms. Stromoski. “I credit that to our phenomenal pharmacy.”