Rush hospital workers get training on how to safely treat Ebola patients

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Chaplain Roger Vandervest may never actually come in contact with an Ebola patient at Rush University Medical Center.

After all, he’s not a doctor or a nurse.

But in the hospital’s “just to be safe” mentality, he was one of about 300 employees at Rush who got training Thursday on the precautions they should take with a suspected Ebola patient to prevent them from getting infected.

Roughly 30 to 60 employees who would have more contact with a suspected Ebola patient will get even more extensive training, a spokeswoman for the hospital said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are discussing having one hospital in Chicago designated as the treatment center for patients with the Ebola virus, the Chicago Sun-Times has reported. And Rush is said to be under consideration for that job.

Representatives for the hospital said they couldn’t confirm that.

There have not been any confirmed cases of Ebola in Illinois.

Yet, Rush, like many other hospitals, is preparing for the possibility.

Specifically, doctors, nurses, chaplains and other employees were trained Thursday on how to put on and take off protective wear if their patient have or are suspected to have Ebola.

They were taught to use a buddy system, so that every doctor or nurse was paired with one person who could go through a checklist before the doctor or nurse interacts with an Ebola patient and another person who could assist that doctor to get in and out of their protective equipment.

It took Vandervest about 15 minutes to put on the mask, gown and all the other protective gear necessary to interact with a patient, while a nurse went through an eight-page checklist. It took almost the same amount of time to remove all of the gear, with the help of another nurse.

Vandervest, who said he wasn’t particularly nervous about getting infected with Ebola, said the training put him at ease.

“Part of me feels good that this whole process has been well thought-out, well-scripted and we have to practice,” Vandervest said, though he admits there’s still some apprehension. “Given the training we have here and the preparation and the practice, I’m pretty confident. I’m probably more confident in the hospital than outside.”

It was the first time Vandervest had gone through such training in the eight years he has been a chaplain at Rush. Every year, several groups of employees get a online refresher course on the proper way to treat any patient who may have an infectious disease. This year, though, they brought in dummies to practice on.

Nadia Abbasi, a certified registered nurse for two years at Rush, agreed that the training was helpful.

“I went into the training pretty nervous about the entire situation and not really sure how I was going to feel about taking care of patients like this, but coming out of it, I feel really comfortable,” she said.

Alexander Tomich, director of infection prevention at Rush, said they looked to places such as Emory University and the University of Nebraska to model what worked well at other hospitals. He said it was too soon, though, to learn from what may have gone wrong in Dallas, where an Ebola patient from Liberia died last week.

On Wednesday, a Texas Health Presbyterian hospital official apologized for mistakes made when health care workers first treated Thomas Eric Duncan.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced that Illinois residents can call their hotline number, (800) 889-3931, with any questions about Ebola seven days a week, 24 hours.

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