By Marsha Pope Harrison, RN, BSN
Sepsis is a medical emergency that needs prompt and coordinated care. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines sepsis as a life-threatening illness that occurs when the body’s response to an infection causes damage to its tissues and organs. The damage caused by sepsis can rapidly lead to organ failure and death.
Any infection can result in sepsis, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that nearly 87% of sepsis cases start before the patient gets to the hospital. Sepsis is also a notable cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. In America, 1.7 million adults develop sepsis, and 350,000 die during their hospitalization, according to the CDC.
With that said, we must take an interdisciplinary approach to treat patients who arrive with signs and symptoms of this deadly condition. This is where multidisciplinary teams for sepsis care come into play. Such teams play a crucial role in providing comprehensive and effective sepsis care.
This article will explore the significant benefits of multidisciplinary teams in sepsis care, focusing on nurses’ vital role.
Enhanced patient outcomes and survival rates
In a recent session of the 4th World Sepsis Congress hosted by the Global Sepsis Alliance, health experts discussed the benefits of multidisciplinary teams in sepsis care at the healthcare facility level. Dr. Yaseen Arabi, of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs, emphasized the need for immediate diagnosis and treatment of sepsis and stated that each one-hour delay in administering appropriate antibiotics results in an 8% increase in mortality.
Multidisciplinary teams bring together healthcare professionals from various specialties, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, and social workers. These professionals’ collective expertise and collaboration lead to improved patient outcomes and increased survival rates.
Nurses are essential members of the multidisciplinary team. They contribute to sepsis care through careful patient assessments, timely interventions, and close monitoring of vital signs and responses to treatment. The nurses’ prompt recognition and intervention can help prevent the progression of sepsis and significantly reduce mortality rates.
Timely and accurate diagnosis
Diagnosing sepsis can be challenging due to its rapid progression and nonspecific symptoms. Multidisciplinary teams facilitate early and accurate diagnosis. They rely on team members for timely and effective communication and implementation of interventions. Each team member uses their knowledge, experiences, and skills to obtain the best outcomes for the patient.
A nurse is often the initial point of contact with patients in the hospital setting. Nurses are paramount in identifying sepsis symptoms and escalating concerns to the medical team in every inpatient area of the hospital. For timely diagnosis and initiation of treatment, the nurse must be able to recognize and identify subtle changes in the patient’s condition. Noticing and communicating altered mental status or abnormal vital signs can save a patient’s life.
Coordinated and comprehensive care
Multidisciplinary teams ensure coordinated and comprehensive care throughout the sepsis care pathway. Nurses on these teams are the care coordinators for patients in healthcare facilities. They are liaisons and patient advocates. Nurses ensure consistent communication and collaboration among all interdisciplinary team members. They assist in identifying symptoms, implementing sepsis protocols, administering medications, and monitoring the effectiveness of drugs and other treatments.
Among nurses’ significant responsibilities is ensuring that patients and families receive appropriate education on sepsis. Nurses provide information on signs and symptoms of infection, how to prevent sepsis, various sepsis treatments, and follow-up care at discharge.
Antibiotic stewardship is one area where nurses can make a difference in combating sepsis. Often patients stop taking an antibiotic when they feel better and save the rest for another time, or worse, they share it with others. During the panel discussion portion of the World Sepsis Congress session, Dr. Mirfin Mpundu, director of ReAct Africa in Zambia, stressed that patients must complete their antibiotics therapy. Nurses are crucial in educating patients and families about the negative results of not completing antibiotics.
Improved medication management
Sepsis treatment often requires the administration of various types of medications, including antibiotics, fluids, and vasopressors. The multidisciplinary team uses the pharmacists’ expertise to select the appropriate drugs, dosing, and treatment monitoring. The pharmacist ensures that the patient receives the right antibiotics and other medications based on the physician’s prescribed treatment regimen.
Nurses work closely with pharmacists to ensure proper medication administration based on lab results, weight, and other vital signs. They monitor and report to the team any adverse reactions and evaluate the response to treatment. This collaborative approach helps minimize medication errors and ensures that patients get the right medications at the right time for the right reasons.
Ongoing support and rehabilitation
Patients who survive sepsis often experience significant long-term physical, emotional, and cognitive effects. Support and rehabilitation are necessary during the sepsis recovery process. The multidisciplinary team coordinates during this phase of treatment as well and ensures the patient receives physical and occupational therapy consultation. According to World Sepsis Congress session panelist Dr. Mohammed Alatwi, of King Fahad Medical City in Saudi Arabia, studies show that physical and occupational therapy significantly reduces the length of hospital stay and improves quality of life in patients recovering from sepsis.
Nurses play a vital role in assessing and addressing patients’ physical and psychological needs. In addition to assisting with ambulation, mobilization, and pain management, nurses provide emotional support to patients and their families. Nurses’ holistic approach to sepsis care improves patients’ outcomes and enhances their overall quality of life.
Multidisciplinary teams are essential in sepsis care at healthcare facilities, and nurses play a vital role within these teams. Nurses contribute significantly to enhanced patient outcomes, timely diagnosis, coordinated care, improved medication management, and ongoing patient support. They accomplish this through their expertise, assessments, interventions, and close monitoring.
The collaborative efforts of multidisciplinary teams, with nurses at the forefront, are critical in providing well-optimized care to patients with sepsis. In her presentation during the World Sepsis Congress session, Amanda Harley, sepsis nurse at Children’s Health Queensland in Australia, said it best: “A lot of sepsis initiatives have come from nurses leading the way.”
I hope this article inspires nurses and other healthcare professionals to participate in and lead multidisciplinary teams to implement sepsis quality improvement projects at their facilities.