ambulance-lightsA neighborhood tends to be on high alert when the sirens and lights of an ambulance cross into their boundaries.  A medical emergency becomes personal and first responders are recognized for their ability to quickly assess and react to any number of scenarios from car accidents to cardiac events and sepsis. While many emergencies are unavoidable, vaccination for influenza and pneumococcal can prevent the common infections that may trigger a deadly sepsis response.

Linda Penisten, program manager for Great Plains QIN“I lost my mother to sepsis after a liver transplant. She was only 55. I knew she was young, but today it feels even younger,” reflected Linda Penisten, RNC/OTR/L, program manager for Great Plains Quality Innovation Network. “We don’t know what infection resulted in her sepsis response, but staying up-to-date on immunizations is an easy step to protect those you love and those at high risk.”

Any infection can become a sepsis health emergency and everyone is at risk. Certain individuals with a variety of age and health factors are at every greater risk for serious complications from the flu which can lead to pneumonia and sepsis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate Individuals age 65 and older, as well as children younger than two, are at high risk, along with those managing one or more chronic diseases, including asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

Great Plains QIN has been working with Emergency Medical Service (EMS) professionals and volunteers across the four-state region to increase awareness of the signs and symptoms of sepsis. Using four sepsis learning modules, including information on the value of vaccines, the team is spreading the word and supporting the implementation of Sepsis Alert protocols.

“Sepsis training for the staff of Sanborn County Ambulance provided the opportunity to identify when we can intervene earlier,” shared Jodi Doering, RN, Sanborn County Ambulance. “We serve an area that has a nursing home and we have already been able to communicate signs of sepsis on patients earlier than we would have before. We welcome any opportunity to learn how to provide better care to our communities.”

Sepsis is the number one diagnosis for hospital admissions and readmissions throughout the country. Protection through immunization and early recognition impacts quality of life for the whole community by reducing complications from a serious infection response while also lowering healthcare costs.

“The response from the EMS squadrons has been amazing,” Penisten contributed. “Understanding of the disease, the individual risk factor and symptoms along with using the protocols for a Sepsis Alert will help save lives.”

The Great Plains QIN website offers information and resources on immunizations and sepsis. In addition, September is Sepsis Awareness Month. We encourage you to take advantage of the Sepsis Alliance toolkits to spread the word.