A new warrior in the sepsis fight: Dedicated sepsis nurses

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Dubbing herself an "infection babysitter," Dawn Nagel, a nurse at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif., is part of a growing trend as hospitals look to fight sepsis — she's a dedicated sepsis nurse.

Ms. Nagel was featured in a recent Kaiser Health News piece on the relatively new phenomenon in hospitals.

Orange City, Calif.-based St. Joseph Hoag Health was one of the first systems to implement dedicated sepsis nurses at its hospitals in 2015. There is now one dedicated sepsis nurse on duty at all times at all hospitals in the network.

The sepsis nurses aren't the system's only line of defense against the deadly condition — it also uses checklists and apps to coordinate care for sepsis patients — but the nurses play a critical role.

"We are the last line of defense," Ms. Nagel told KHN. "We're here to save lives. If we are not closely monitoring them, they might get sicker and go into organ failure before you know it."

Speed is of the essence when it comes to successfully treating sepsis, as multiple studies have shown.

At St. Joseph Hoag Health hospitals, all potential sepsis patients are tracked for at least 24 hours and receive a visit from the sepsis nurse, who checks on patients, makes sure proper protocols are followed and explains more about the condition.

St. Joseph Hoag's focus on sepsis has yielded positive results, with sepsis death rates dropping from 12 percent to 9 percent from 2015 to 2016, and the number of patients who went into septic shock at St. Joseph Hospital was halved in that time period, according to KHN.

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