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Health Team

Henderson hospital using chocolate to train for potential Ebola threat

Posted October 14, 2014 6:45 p.m. EDT
Updated October 14, 2014 7:36 p.m. EDT

— Lately, it's not unusual to see a nurse at Maria Parham Medical Center suit up in protective gear, gown, mask and gloves as the hospital prepares just in case a patient presents signs of the Ebola virus.

What's different is that they use chocolate syrup in their training.

The Henderson hospital's chief nursing officer, Cindy Faulkner, says it's a visual way to ensure medical workers are properly removing their protective gear so as not to contaminate anything or anyone.

Since a Texas nurse contracted the disease from a patient, the hospital says, staff members have been especially concerned about making sure they know how to protect themselves.

"Our infection prevention specialist is going unit by unit and helping them practice," Faulkner said.

It's an example of how smaller hospitals in rural communities are preparing for the threat.

Maria Parham is preparing in other ways as well, such as adding Ebola-related questions to its intake process.

"Immediately, if any of the answers to those questions is yes, our nursing supervisor would be contacted as well as the local health department," Faulkner said.

That's when Granville-Vance District Health Department Director Lisa Harrison and her team would step in.

"Public health's role is a lot around contact tracing for communicable disease," Harrison said.

As for what would happen next for an Ebola patient once isolated at Maria Parham, medical officials says it's likely a hospital of its size would eventually transport the person to another facility.

"It is starting to become the recommendation that a patient would be taken to either a tertiary center or one of the five hospitals in the country that are going to handle Ebola patients," she said.

Both Duke University Hospital and UNC Hospitals are considered tertiary hospitals and have resources beyond a smaller hospital, such as Maria Parham.