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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Emory nurse on Ebola: ‘We can fear or we can care’

Fearless compassion, thy name is Susan Mitchell Grant. This RN and chief nurse at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta has penned a straightforward, heartfelt explanation of why her colleagues welcome the challenge of treating the first two Ebola patients in the U.S.

Grant’s recent piece in the Washington Post is a must-read inspiration that will remind many of why they got into health care in the first place. While noting that much of the fears being expressed about Ebola are unfounded, Grant emphasizes that the mission of health care is to treat the sick and suffering regardless of the contagion faced.

“The purpose of any hospital is to care for the ill and advance knowledge about human health,” she writes. "At Emory, our education, research, dedication and focus on quality — essentially everything we do — is in preparation to handle these types of cases. Further, Americans stand to benefit from what we learn by treating these patients. … Ebola won’t become a threat to the general public from their presence in our facility, but the insight we gain by caring for them will prepare us to better treat emergent diseases that may confront the United States in the future."

That said, Grant takes the ethical high ground, calling out those who would abandon care givers who selflessly came to the aid of others in grave need.

“We are caring for these patients because it is the right thing to do," she writes. "These Americans generously went to Africa on a humanitarian mission to help eradicate a disease that is especially deadly in countries without our health-care infrastructure. They deserve the same selflessness from us. To refuse to care for these professionals would raise enormous questions about the ethical foundation of our profession.”

Grant closes with the raison d'etre, the very essence of the personal mission of those who wear the white. It’s like asking the mountain climber why, but instead of “Because it’s there,” the answer is "Because I’m here.”

“As health-care professionals, this is what we have trained for,” she writes. “People often ask why we would choose to care for such high-risk patients. For many of us, that is why we chose this occupation — to care for people in need. Every person involved in the treatment of these two patients volunteered for the assignment. At least two nurses canceled vacations to be a part of this team. … We can either let our actions be guided by misunderstandings, fear and self-interest, or we can lead by knowledge, science and compassion. We can fear, or we can care.”