Are you a sepsis champion?

Abigail Garrison (left) and Stephanie Knight (right)

Approximately a 4-minute read

Key takeaways:

  • It’s Pediatric Sepsis Week, and sepsis champions have been recognized across C&W.
  • Two champions reflected on the work that is taking place to address sepsis in pediatric patients.
  • At Mott, there has also been swag giveaways, rounding on units, handouts of pediatric sepsis checklist flyers and new badge cards.

Spot sepsis. Stop sepsis.

Hopefully you’ve seen the signs and posters across the organization raising awareness of the leading cause of death at Michigan Medicine.

“This week is Pediatric Sepsis Week and another great opportunity for us to continue to bring attention to the early identification and treatment of sepsis,” said Sarah Poley, sepsis coordinator for the children’s and women’s hospitals.

Poley, along with her colleagues, have been celebrating the week by handing out swag, rounding on units with pediatric sepsis checklist flyers and new badge cards, and recognizing sepsis champions.

“Having sepsis champions across Mott and Von Voigtlander is really how we can make an impact on sepsis detection and treatment for our patients,” Poley said. “I’m thankful for the support and efforts of so many of our frontline providers who are implementing the sepsis bundle of treatments. It’s their hard work and dedication to learning more about early sepsis identification that is making a difference in how we care for pediatric patients with sepsis.”

Poley invited Headlines to catch up with two sepsis champions and nurses, Abigail Garrison from Children’s Emergency Services (CES) and Stephanie Knight from the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), to learn more about their unit’s work around sepsis care and their advice for other care providers.

Q: What is your unit doing to address sepsis care for pediatric patients?

A: Garrison: We use a set of screening questions as a tool to assess the patient’s sepsis probability the minute they walk into CES. If they answer yes to one or more of the questions, it prompts the triage nurse to investigate further using the next set of questions to evaluate possible/probable sepsis. These tools allow us to evaluate EVERY patient in CES, not just our high-risk patients. If a concern continues it is further escalated to the attending and the charge nurse for immediate bedside huddle.

Knight: The PICU Rapid Response Team (RRT) nurse is part of the sepsis response team (SRT) on the acute care units. When a bedside nurse charts vital signs that trend abnormal for the patient, this triggers a Best Practice Alert (BPA) and a secondary screening. Once the bedside nurse completes a secondary screen that is concerning for sepsis, the PICU RRT nurse receives a page to attend a sepsis huddle. The PICU nurse can help obtain intravenous access and cultures, and also help administer fluid bolus’ and antibiotics.

Q: Building off that question, does your unit have any future goals for sepsis identification and early treatment?

A: Garrison: Having Sarah as the sepsis coordinator has already improved the care of sepsis patients in CES.  We recently adjusted our sepsis huddle at the bedside with the attending, making it a little more concrete of what we need to do. Little changes like that help the patients get the care they need in a timely manner. Sarah also helps us to identify what we did well and what we could have done differently for future treatment. One thing I have learned the past 24 years as a nurse is that being able to identify what could have been done differently will only improve one’s care of patients.

Q: Sarah shared that you both are true champions for early recognition and treatment of pediatric sepsis. How do you demonstrate to your colleagues that you are a champion for sepsis?

A: Knight: In the PICU we often care for patients who already have the sepsis process started when they arrive to our unit. There are some patients who have sepsis during their PICU stay. I love to encourage others to complete the sepsis screen! The sepsis screen gives nurses a way to present their assessment in a standardized way, and increase the opportunity to start early treatment.

Q: Why do you think it’s important to be a sepsis champion within your team?

A: Knight: Treating sepsis is a team effort, and it’s important to represent bedside nursing within our team. Bedside nurses are frontline staff who partner with the family to recognize the small changes of our patients. We work with respiratory therapists who administer oxygen if needed and our privileged providers who prescribe medications. Sepsis has positive outcomes when the team comes together to treat quickly and correctly. Nurses can champion early identification!

Q: To Stephanie’s point, you both are bedside nurses. Do you have any advice for other nurses who are hoping to improve their awareness of early sepsis identification?

A: Garrison: My advice to other nurses is sepsis should always be a potential concern even if your patient looks well. Especially when it comes to kids; they look good one minute and the next they’re crashing. Early recognition and treatment can definitely make a difference in the outcome.