The nurse who broke protocol~

And here you will read the true story of a nurse who broke protocol.

I held the bloody hand of an HIV+ patient without gloving.

About three weeks ago.

I was walking down the hallway when I heard yelling.  I hear that a lot, I work in behavioral health.  So I checked what was happening and saw the patient with blood on her clothing and on her hands and I knew she was HIV+ and I didn’t know the source of the blood.  I approached her anyway and got her to sit down with me and then I took her hand.  And none of this happened because I’m a hero nor did it happen because I’m stupid or because I don’t know about precautions.  It happened because I’m a nurse.

Just like the times I’ve peeled off my glove to do a difficult IV start so I could get a better feel.  Or a million other exposures on a thousand other days.  Like every other nurse in the world.

And we are exactly the kind of nurses you and your family want when you are the ones in the bed.

Yes, we should use protective equipment and precautions and yes, we do exactly that 99.9% of the time.  But most of us will never turn away from a person (patient or not) in need for lack of personal protective equipment.

There’s a nurse in Dallas now diagnosed with Ebola after caring for the patient who died a few days ago.  The CDC is citing a breach in protocol as the source of her infection.  I don’t debate that is possible.  She was gloved, masked, gowned and wearing a face mask just like she was supposed but somewhere in the complicated and long process of donning and then disposing of her equipment, something may have gone wrong leaving her vulnerable.

She has Ebola now.  Even her dog is being tested.  And the powers that be are desperately trying to trace the concentric circles of everyone she came into contact with.  Not to mention everyone her patient came into contact with.  If you think that the virus is isolated within our borders, I have to gently inform you, it’s out there now.

Why do I share this?  To beg you to pray for us.  Because when I held the bloody hand of that HIV+ patient, I was praying within my heart for protection.  And after I settled her down, I did the scrub down and examined my hands for wounds and prayed again.  We aren’t rogue caregivers or careless and we don’t have a death wish.  What we have is some something, buried deep in our DNA that requires us to give ourselves to God in the service of those in need and to believe that even when the man-made precautions that should protect us fail (even when it’s because we didn’t use them,) He will honor our attempts to give care and compassion.

I don’t want applause, as a rule, nurses share very few stories of those moments when they put themselves in harm’s way.  We share the gross stories, the funny moments.  The things that make our friends shriek, “EW!” and cause our loved ones to turn a little green around the gills during Thanksgiving dinner.

What I’m asking is, please don’t pass judgement on this nurse who is now infected with Ebola as if her alleged protocol breach somehow makes this her fault and not a tragedy.  As though it means we are all safe and there aren’t greater forces and higher powers responsible for our exposure.

You don’t want a world of RNs who will walk past you in the restaurant as you choke because she doesn’t have personal protective equipment.  Or the one who won’t apply pressure to your child’s wound after a car accident for lack of gloves.  You want us to be careful and yet, willing to take risks on your behalf.

So be kind.  Be respectful.

And most of all, pray for us.  If you’ve never prayed for us before; make no mistake, we are now in true danger.  Pray for us.

Update:  Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read, think about and comment on the above posts.  Each of your opinions, whether in support or criticism, are appreciated and respected.  Due to the large amount of response and the fact that both “sides” of the conversation are well represented, I have closed comments.  We seem to be moving into the area of name-calling and I don’t think further pursuit of this kind of discussion is productive.  Again, thank you.  Each thought you shared has been taken to heart by me.  God bless.


151 thoughts on “The nurse who broke protocol~

  1. unknown

    REALLY!!! I will agree to the statement one person said…”EBOLA is nothing like HIV+” 1st of all HIV virus dies after 3-6min. airborne???? She wasn’t so much at risk as you think!! And 2nd in 15 yrs. Of nursing I’ve had needle sticks, taking care of many HIV+ patients and never feared them infecting me unless I chose to lay down and have sex with each one unprotected?? And now this EBOLA, all I can say is my PRAYERS ARE WITH EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU!! UNIVERSAL PRECAUTIONS ALL THE WAY!! and I agree with the author sometimes our compassionate hearts lead us to making poor choices! But, my GOD knows our dangers and our weaknesses and he will prevail in any situation as long as you ask for his help! I know some things are irreversible but prayers to all of you still doing the work, and putting yourselves at risk everyday!! God speed and GOD BLESS!!

  2. Allie

    you are a complete moron why on earth would you risk the lives of your other patients. It was completely irresponsible and as I a nurse I can assure you that what you did was not a choice that good nurse would make. It was a very stupid move you risked not only your health but the health of your other patients you made a very bad choice and I agree with Jennifer I would NOT want a nurse like you at my bedside.

  3. KB

    No. No, no, no. While I agree that you are very compassionate, you are also irresponsible. You knowingly grabbed HIV infected blood, not only putting yourself at risk, but other people and patients. (I am sure that you washed your hands after, but still). You are NOT the kind of nurse I want. I hope your prayer worked, but as someone who is medically trained you above many should be aware how diseases spread. Absolutely ridiculous.

  4. Pam

    It doesn’t matter whose fault it is she is a child of God and she is sick. Bottom line is we need to pray for her and that this crisis ends soon.

  5. Brittany Lease

    Wow! I’m a nurse and some of these comments…just wow! I suppose its only natural to want someone to blame for Ebola spreading but I assure you all nurses are not “truly stupid”. While I agree, if there is protective equipment available, use it!! I also understand what the author is saying, if the equipment wasn’t there, could you turn someone injured or ill away? If the answer is yes, maybe you shouldn’t be a nurse, and if you can walk away from someone reaching out to you whose dying, because there aren’t gloves, I’d question your right to be called human. So maybe for the people pointing your fingers at health workers, you’ll eventually be grateful for us. When its your family sick, and you’re hiding in your house afraid of catching something, who do you think is going to be at their bedside caring for them?! Couldn’t believe some of the comments… Hurts my heart. Way to band together people, can’t wait to see what happens as this gets bigger…

  6. Jennifer

    Seriously ? You prayed for protection? Don’t you think they pray in Liberia? The way to stop spreading infection is to never, ever, ever breach protocol. You may think you are doing something noble, but you are not. You just put more people at risk to feed your own ego. I am an RN. And I would NOT want a nurse like you in my room.

  7. Wingnut

    I would never question the amazing work that health care professionals do on a daily basis. My question is how in the world was anyone that worked with ebola patient allowed to travel on public transportation until after 21 days (incubation period) of their last interaction with him. I thought that would have addressed in the protocol. Actually, I thought that the employees with direct contact would have been quarantined at the hospital for the incubation period.

  8. Rose

    Any nurse who deliberately ignores safety procedures is not only possibly hurting themselves but disregarding the safety of others and in my opinion not a hero. I am a very compassionate person however it takes seconds to put gloves on. I do realize it could possibly happen unintentionally and feel for those that happens to however to do it on purpose to maybe even make yourself look like a hero is not at all being the nurse you should be. if so you are hurting lots of other people. I don’t think that nurse did anything on purpose. I think the really necessary precautions were not taken by the ones in charge. She caught it some kind of way and if not by something she did by something not taught to her and other nurses. We can’t possibly know every way this disease is contracted. May God bless and help her and others who get this disease and help us to keep it under control.

  9. I had a son with heart defects who eventually passed away, but the process of living in the hospital opened my eyes to the beauty of nurses. My prayers are going up for each of you.

  10. Becky Stephens

    Many of us feel it is difficult to put in black and white our “rationale” for doing what we do. This is a beautifully stated!

  11. Love this and love your heart and those of thousands of other nurses out there! Anyone who has ever been in a hospital, or had a loved one in a hospital, knows that the Nurses are the frontline! The drs. may make the official diagnosis… but the minute by minute ‘dirty work’ and care (LOTS of it) comes from our wonderful nurses!! And yes, with the crazy world we are living in, I am definitely adding nurses to my prayer list. Thank you for all you do!!

  12. Joy Flojo

    Truly,the world gives you an applause and most importantly,God who knows what is in your heart..the desire to help, the love for those who are afflicted,, the concern and care for the helpless…our traditional advocacy….NURSES like you are heroes….God will protect you because He understands…

  13. Susan

    While I am not a nurse. I do work in the medical field as well I totally agree with this. It is scary what is happening. We have less time and less staff to do the job we do and yes errors will happen. We all try our best.

  14. nurseinthephils

    I feel you. At least there, you have something to use. Here in our country, we do not have a choice. We enter PTB rooms with only a single face mask we bought from our own pockets. And have i told you that we work for the government with a salary of USD 50-150 a month. Taxes not yet deducted.

  15. So beautifully written. I believe the equipment could have had a “leak”and failed the nurse….why is it always assumed that it is the nurse at fault?

  16. julie hartman

    As a parent we react to comfort our child when hurt. Thinking comes next. Same in the medical field. It was HIV then the. Other one that started with an s then the strain of flu then the one you get from the hospital (just can’t think of the names) now Ebola. Just saying!!!

  17. Annette

    Sending prayers… my daughter is going to school to be a nurse and my best friends daughter is a nurse….. I thank you all for what you do thanks for being human.

  18. Dee

    I think this is crazy. If you have a family you really care about you will not put your self in harms way no matter the job. Choking and a bleeding child is totally different than a person with a deadly and very spreadable disease. Yes a nurse should be caring and very compassionate. But you have to be smart also. Was she in the wrong ? No. She was not given the correct potocol to protect herself. Which was not her fault. This is a very serious matter and a lot of people are in the USA. Have you really seen what it has done in Africa 4,000 people dead . I mean come on now . I’m glad i’m not a nurse cause i would have probably lost my job for refusing to go into a room with someone with a very deadly condition. And i would not hold the hand of an HIV positive person. I would talk to them and comfort them. I’m sorry but i value my life and the life of my family because i would also be putting them in harms way .

  19. Kathy

    Thank you for sharing this. Yes, it happened to me, in L&D. I had to catch a baby being born with only one gloved hand. It was that or let the baby hit the floor.

  20. Joyce

    The first nurse, I have compassion for, the 2nd, I truly feel that she CHOSE to put the public as risk just as she had been put at risk. Everyone who bothers to read a newspaper, listen to the radio, watch a television, or has access to the internet KNOWS that Ebola has a 3-week window. Are nurses not aware of things that the general public knows? In spite of what hospital administration or even the CDC says, shouldn’t a nurse have known that she was potentially putting others at risk by getting into a plane which is a tight, enclosed space filled with living, breathing humans? Or do we assume that nurses are truly stupid creatures that must be told what to do and how to do in every single situation? Nurse #2 had one concern. Her wedding. Won’t that be a delightful event for the bride when she finds out that someone else has gotten Ebola because of her. She had a fever. She called the CDC. Someone at the CDC dropped the ball because her fever hadn’t yet reached the levels that typically affect someone who has contracted Ebola. What? Does a temperature jump from normal to 101 degrees in a second or two? I always thought it was gradual. Doesn’t a nurse KNOW these things?

  21. Deb

    This is so true! I have worked in medical all my life, and, I have seen MANY Nurses give of themselves, self-lessly!! A beautiful thing and I will pray….hard!

  22. I worked in the medical field for GE Medical systems and as part of my job as most Radiology sections know we have to open up the equipment used to treat these very same type of patients. The body fluids get into this equipment more then most people know and we have safety protocols against the very same thing. The point, Nurses are not the only ones in a hospital putting themselves in harms way to viruses not to mention the radiation from high dose x-ray.” I GET IT” and will pray for this nurse because its is easy to come into contact with the active virus and other viruses while still following procedures.

    Rick White
    Fort Walton Beach,FL

  23. Julie

    The difference between you and the nurse who has been infected with ebola is that you were informed and were trained to deal with of safety protocols for HIV+ patients and for starting IV’s. The CDC and the hospital administration FAILED that nurse in Dallas, and all other health care professionals and patients who had contact with that patient, i’m going to link an article at the end of this comment, I hope that you read it, because it gives a laundry list of how abysmally this hospital handled the situation. While I agree that the “breach of protocol” statement against the first nurse infected with ebola are outrageous (because, there was no protocol, again please read the article I attached), that does not excuse you for throwing all of your training out of the window under the guise of being “caring”. If I heard a patient in distress I would absolutely go to them, but if I saw blood (or any bodily fluid for that matter) I would glove up (seriously it takes less than 10 seconds) and go to them. I get that you don’t think that you’re a hero, but the fact that you are justifying a blatant breach in standard precautions blows my mind. Your statements at the end of your blog seem to me as further justifications of your actions, which disturbs me, because being out in the public is incredibly different from being in a patient care setting. YOU were in a patient care setting when you chose to hold a bloody hand of an HIV+ patient, i’m not sure about your facilities, but every single hospital I have practiced in, the gloves were right next to the door. I find it ridiculous that you are comparing yourself to the nurse that contracted ebola because you knew better (I know this because you said it in your blog), you knew what precautions you were supposed to take with HIV+ patients. I want to emphasize to you that ebola is not the same as HIV, at all. HIV is transmitted sexually, by blood, and breastmilk. Ebola on the other hand, is mucous, vomit, feces, blood, etc… it isn’t the same. Standard precautions work for HIV, not so much for ebola as evidenced by the two nurses who are currently infected. Another point you made in your blog is that you are the kind of nurse that people would want their family being treated by, well I’m sorry to burst your bubble but I would never want you to treat my family. You obviously do not care about personal safety, so why would you care about my families safety? As much as that bloody HIV patient appreciated your effort, i’m sure your other patients families would be absolutely livid to find out that you were willingly exposed to HIV and continued caring for patients. I know you washed you hands and checked for sores, but are you positive that the blood did not get on your scrubs, also, what was the source of the bleed? That would be good information to know.

  24. Fouad Mirzashafa

    It is with the words of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ who said those who loose their life will live and those who try to save their lives will die.” Nurses and many other medical professionals are busy saving lives that most of tve time we put others needs’ before ourselves.

  25. Karen S.

    Thank you for sharing this….God bless you and God bless us all who set aside our well being to help others.

  26. Tami

    Yes , exactly … Beautifully said ! Thank you. ! Yes , I am an RN for 27 years. 9 of those years in ER … I believe prayer is what got me through safely ( so far ) hugs to you !

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  29. Hellonurse

    After listening to the webex sponsored by the National Nurses organization today, it did not sound like there were any real protocols in place. There are no national standards set yet. We nurses need the proper equipment to protect ourselves and others. It is a shame there nurses have acquired this illness too and will pray for all involved to be protected and healed.

  30. Lisa

    Here is the problem with the above story. The nurse who now has Ebola in all likelihood, didn’t break protocol. This is nothing to take lightly, and as a practicing medical professional, we know our responsibility to our family and community if we don’t. We currently do not have training or equipment to properly don to take care of Ebola patients. There are only a handful of hospitals that do, and the Texas hospital in question does not and did not. Therefore, the above scenario is inappropriate and diminishes what and how we do our work. Give us the skill set and the equipment NOW!

  31. Lea Dora

    Well written and stated, Its this nurse who I want taking care of my loved one. God bless you and I pray for a speedy recovery. God keep us safe as we continue to be compassionate to all the ill and needy we come into contact with God bless

  32. I’m retired now but I was never afraid to take care of HIV or Aids patients or any other patient with highly contagious disease because I felt covered by God for the care and compassion I gave them. That’s what a nurse does even tho at times you have to make do because you don’t have the proper equipment to work with. It’s not a perfect world. The hospital in Dallas dropped the ball with the Ebola patient that died in so many ways putting many people at risk. The first nurse that got Ebola should be treated at that hospital for no charge and continue to be paid her full salary until she can return to work. I’m sure she will receive Workman’s Comp.

  33. Gloria Craven

    Thank you for all you do. My Mom and my Mother-in-law were both nurses and both broke protocol at times to care for a patient in crisis. God took care of them and kept them healthy and working. My prayers are with you and all the nurses out there that do that very tough job. God bless you.

  34. Jenn

    I disagree strongly with what you did. There are too many unavoidable risks in this profession to purposefully, and intentionally not protect yourself. I have been a nurse for nearly 20 years and I ALWAYS wear my gloves. Think about all the people you would are hurting if you get sick from something you did. Your family and friends need you to protect yourself. Your patients get your heart even wearing gloves.

  35. Anne

    Yes, I understand this also. I’m just a mom but could never not help a child or another person who was crying in distress or pain. My son is a police officer. Long before that though when his was barely 20, a motorcyclist was hit at a main crossing here in Lubbock. My son rushed to his side. Helmet busted and brains oozing out, Aids was greatly feared at the time, but Jerry held his head together trying to prevent more blood loss while waiting for ambulance. Yes, policeman came and stopped traffic, but didn’t have gloves and wouldn’t touch the victim. I am glad to say after being a policeman for 16 years now my son is still one of the most compassionate men I have ever known.

  36. From one nurse to another, thank you for caring. I pray for nurses, I have worked with some of the best, and I have been cared for by some of the best. Praying for both of these nurses who are fighting this deadly disease.

  37. deidre

    44years as a nurse and I know the importance of caring. I tell young nurses this is the basis for nursing. Skills rank as high but are definitely not any more important. We try to care for others as we want our loved ones to be cared for. Thank you for your request for prayers for I can assure everyone without my faith and many prayers I could not have made it physically or emotionally. I indeed praise those who are willing to break protocol and GO THE EXTRA MILE. MANY DON’T!

  38. Rachel

    I don’t have the same religious belief you do, but I will pray for you the way I know how, and I will ask my friends to do the same. I think all our prayers go the same “address”, regardless of the name we put on the message. You truly do the work of the Divine. There is nobody more selfless in this world than the doctors and nurses who risk everything to make other people better or comfort them when they can’t. It’s the kind of thing your Christ would do.

  39. amanda

    I am thankful for the nurses who work round the clock for their patients. But the nurse who cared for a person with a deadly disease and decided it would be a good time to go on an airplane…I have no words. Unforgivable and a disgrace to fellow nurses.

  40. Sarah

    Having been a nurse in the acute care setting for over 10 years, I don’t know that I agree 100% with this article. There is a huge difference between stepping up and giving the Heimlich to a stranger at a restaurant and grabbing an HIV positive pt’s bloody hands without gloves. One is a simple maneuver that saves lives without blood exposure. The other is an unnecessary exposure to a known deadly disease. One is heroic. The other is inexcusable. Safety protocols are in place for a reason. It literally would have taken less than 15 seconds to grab a pair of gloves. Instead the author exposed herself, and consequently her family members and possibly her other patients to HIV. The author states that she is the kind of nurse we would want in this world… I would say the opposite. I don’t want a nurse who is knowingly exposing herself to danger and who cuts corners in regards to safety in a non-emergent situation to care for my family member. That being said, I won’t say that in a code situation or other actual emergency, I wouldn’t run into a contact iso room without gowning up… but I sure would put gloves on…especially if being exposed to any kind of body fluid…. and ESPECIALLY the blood of a known HIV patient. I’m willing to take risks for my patients or for those who need help… but not if they aren’t necessary. We all get exposed to stuff on a regular basis… why on earth do it more than necessary? Nurses have to be smart in the care they provide.

    1. Pam

      Well said Sarah! The world needs lots of smart nurses right now and smart nurses wear gloves and observe standard precautions at a minimum even for tough IV sticks! These measures are in place to protect the nurse, the patient, the community, the world. I respect everyone’s right to faith and God, but I also believe that God provides good nurses with excellent critical thinking skills and gloves for a reason!

  41. Jan

    God bless you and the other nurses who care for the ill no matter what disease they have. I have three nurses in my immediate family….Two daughters and a granddaughter. I pray for them and I will pray for you and all other nurses.

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