When someone has the flu, most of us will stay far, far away – and for good reason. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this year we’ve experienced one of the worst flu seasons in 10 years and sadly, one of the deadliest. As of early February 2013, there have been 127 flu-related deaths in Minnesota alone.
“The flu isn’t new; we’ve been talking about it for decades,” said Stephanie Yackel, Nursing Dean at the Rasmussen College Eagan campus. “What we’ve seen this year, however, is people are getting increasingly sick even after getting the flu vaccine.”
Yackel works with more than 120 nursing students at the Rasmussen College Eagan campus. Unlike you or I, nurses can’t avoid everyone suffering from influenza by staying indoors. So, how do they stay safe? The flu vaccine is not one hundred percent effective this season, so Yackel says it’s been more important than ever for nurses to take every precaution.
“It sounds like common sense, but the best way to protect yourself against the flu is to wash your hands,” said Yackel. “During their clinicals, our nursing students wash their hands constantly. At times, they also wear masks and gloves. Nurses who work on the floor will also take antivirals if they are at a heightened risk of the flu.”
Laura Musolf, a nursing student at Rasmussen College, knows firsthand how important it is to wash your hands, as well as pay attention to those around you at all times. Musolf is currently conducting her clinicals at Augustana Health Care Center, a long-term care facility in Apple Valley, Minn. and Minnesota Masonic Home, an assisted living facility in Bloomington, Minn. Both places have seen cases of the flu this season.
“Along with constantly washing my hands, I use hand sanitizer before I enter a room and after I leave,” said Musolf. “We are also well informed about a patient’s well-being before working with him or her. If someone has the flu, doctors will treat other patients with [a prescription flu medication] to prevent it from spreading.”
The health care facilities don’t just communicate with each other, but with visitors as well. Musolf says she often sees signs at the front desk notifying visitors of a flu case or outbreak and to come back at a later time.
“We also hang signs on patients’ doors asking visitors to please see a nurse before going into the room,” said Musolf.
Fortunately, Musolf has managed to avoid the flu so far.
“It certainly doesn’t look fun,” Musolf said. “I’ve learned how to better protect myself and how to teach others to protect themselves as well.”