Hear that? That’s the relative quiet we’ve been enjoying since the media furor over the U.S. cases of Ebola died down. It doesn’t mean the virus is gone, and it’s safe to say we haven’t seen the last of it in U.S. healthcare facilities.
But healthcare took a hard blow, and as healthcare workers spoke up about the lack of confidence they had in their training facilities had to get real about making sure they were prepared. Meanwhile, the government stepped up, understanding they needed to take more of proactive approach to helping them prepare.
I had the pleasure this week of talking with some notable experts in the field of infection control, including Peter Provonost, MD, critical care physician and medical director of the Quality and Safety Research Group at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, who teamed up with the CDC to develop and record a series of easy-to-follow training videos designed to help healthcare workers in clinics and hospitals understand the complicated steps involved in donning and doffing the PPE required to treat patients with Ebola.
Access the training videos at the following link: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/ppe-training/ 
Meanwhile, here’s some tips experts suggest for safety officials to consider when training their own staff:
Know what you don’t know. Ebola is uncharted territory for many of you out there. The CDC and many other safety agencies have changed their recommendations about protocols as recently as within the last six months, and unless you are constantly keeping up on things, you’ll soon be out of compliance. Keep up on all the latest journals, bookmark government agencies for all the latest information on the Ebola outbreak, and talk to your employees. What do they want to know? Find out the answers and have a training session.
Be open to new things. Instead of using lectures or simply printing out guidelines released by the CDC or OSHA for your staff to review, try video training or printing posters or other visual aids that can be hung around the clinic for them to review. Even better, hire a consultant to come in and do some hands-on training. Some companies (and hospitals) will actually bring gowns, coveralls, and masks to your facility and let your staff practice donning and doffing PPE. In addition, it’s a good idea to let them get into pairs and practice using a buddy system when doing procedures.
Get to know your neighbors. In the event that even one Ebola patient walks through your door, it’s going to immediately take over all resources you have. You’re going to need some help. If your facility is connected to a hospital, maybe you have a deal worked out to have physicians, nurses, and other staff to come help out with the extra patient load. You will need to have vendors who can resupply your facility quickly if a high patient surge drains your backup stashes quickly, and if your facility is a lab, or if you have a lab on site, make sure you’ve checked with your couriers to ensure who will transport blood samples.
Practice for the real thing. Perhaps it’s time to hold a drill just like the safety folks at hospitals do every year to maintain accreditation with agencies such as the Joint Commission. You can make it as real as possible: perhaps using volunteer “victims” to walk in and engage your staff, acting as if they may have traveled to African nations and now they are exhibiting Ebola-like symptoms. The idea is to challenge your staff and to test their responses. They will make mistakes; your goal is to help them learn from them and improve.