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OM in the News: Nurses, Ebola, and the Subject of Quality

October 17, 2014

ebolaWith Ebola leading the news every day, I am reminded of the words of Dr. Edwards Deming:  management needs to accept responsibility for quality in building systems. Deming believed an employee could not, on average, exceed the quality of a process’ capability. (His famous 14 points are summarized in Table 6.2 on page 212). Now with some nurses being blamed for the lax Ebola virus procedures in Texas, we are seeing a response from the leading nursing association.

Following news that the first U.S. nurse has now tested positive for the Ebola virus, National Nurses United (NNU, Oct.12, 2014) called for all hospitals to have in place the highest standard of optimal protections, including Hazmat suits, and hands-on training to protect all RNs, other hospital personnel to confront Ebola . NNU’s new survey of 2,000 nurses  shows:

  • 76% still say their hospital has not communicated to them any policy regarding potential admission of patients infected by Ebola
  • 85% say their hospital has not provided education on Ebola with the ability for the nurses to interact and ask questions
  • 37% say their hospital has insufficient current supplies of eye protection for daily use on their unit; 36% say there are insufficient supplies of fluid resistant/impermeable gowns in their hospital
  • 39% say their hospital does not have plans to equip isolation rooms with plastic covered mattresses and pillows and discard all linens after use; only 8% said they were aware their hospital does have such a plan in place

Not having supplies; not having equipment; not educating employees; not having a plan. All of these are systems problems, not employee problems, Deming would say.

Classroom discussion questions:

1. Who is responsible for setting quality standards and processes for Ebola treatment and prevention?

2. Which of Dr. Deming’s 14 points particularly apply in this situation?

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