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

Sepsis: The Poorly Understood Killer

By Gary Evans, AHC Media Senior Staff Writer

With everything else they are tasked to do, infection preventionists may question why they are now being called upon as key collaborators in the national effort to reduce sepsis, a syndrome traditionally more associated with critical care than infection control.

The short answer – proven by the IPs who have joined sepsis prevention collaborative teams - is that they can make a difference. An IP speaking at a sepsis session recently in Charlotte at the annual conference summed up the cur-rent situation for the audience.

“For those of you sitting here thinking, ‘I’m an IP. I know nothing about sepsis. My quality, ICU and ID teams lead sepsis at my hospital.’ Two years ago I was where you are, [but] you learn as you go the vital role we can play,” says Laura Anderson, RN, MSN, CIC, manager of infection prevention at Newton Medical Center in Denville, NJ. “As IPs we know that we are collaborative and very interdisciplinary. I am the only IP in my facility so I very much rely on the people I work with to get the job done.”

Getting the job done against sepsis means saving lives and dollars, as the deadly but poorly understood condition has become one of healthcare’s most dreaded outcomes. About 300,000 people in the U.S. die of sepsis every year. Thus IPs are being drafted to join a national effort to prevent, detect and rapidly treat sepsis before it becomes the fatal sequelae of what could begin as a simple infection.

Sepsis is essentially a systematic inflammatory immune response to an infection that can quickly become life-threatening. In severe cases, organs begin to fail as blood pressure drops, affecting the heart and leading to septic shock. At that point the patient’s life hangs in the balance and rapid interventions must be brought to bear to avert death.