Emily Balan/News Copy Editor
Seton Hall’s College of Nursing has responded to the heightened panic surrounding the Ebola outbreak and the concerns of medical staff, especially nurses, in New Jersey facilities by arming nursing students with information that it hopes will ease mounting fears.
“What the College of Nursing is doing is to inform the students of good websites, reliable sources, so that they can get accurate information about Ebola (because) there’s a lot of reaction that people are afraid,” said Dr. Mary Ann Scharf, associate professor at the College of Nursing and director of Patient Care Simulation Laboratory. “What we’re trying to do is to quell the fears.”
In an email to the entire College of Nursing last week, Dean Marie Foley declared an “Ebola Awareness Week” in light of rising hysteria surrounding the disease and the recent proximity to Seton Hall of a medical response that generated a great deal of controversy.
A nurse who had flown to Newark after volunteering to work in Ebola-stricken West Africa was put into quarantine at University Hospital in Newark and held against her will even though she tested negative for the disease. She was allowed to leave on Tuesday, Oct. 28, after she had threatened to sue the state for violating her rights.
Thomas Giordano, assistant director for emergency management for Seton Hall’s Department of Public Safety and Security, attended a meeting called by the Essex County Office of Emergency Management on the issue of Ebola.
In an email to Dr. Scharf, he said the meeting explained that at Newark Liberty International Airport, there are special screening procedures for arriving passengers from affected African countries, namely Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, and that “high risk” persons will continue to be evaluated at University Hospital in Newark.
At Seton Hall, a bulletin board was converted in the College of Nursing building to spread awareness about Ebola. Most information is from the Centers for Disease Control while pictures are from CNN reports in West Africa. The board highlights the proper equipment medical personnel must use to handle infected people. Nursing professors informed their students about issues related to the spread of the disease and recommended precautions that nurses should take. In most classes, information from the CDC as well as the New Jersey Department of Health was given to students or posted to Blackboard, according to Dr. Scharf.
In a research class, Dr. Munira Wells had her students conduct an “Ebola mini-project” to study the disease’s spread and prevention, evaluate the use of proper protective equipment, and check global incidence rates compared to rates in the U.S. Dr. Scharf pointed out the African tradition of the touching the bodies of family members who die directly contributed to the initial spread of the disease.
Dr. Mary Ellen Roberts, director of the Nursing Practice Program and assistant professor in the graduate Department of Nursing, does not believe that the current level of fear about Ebola in this country is justified. Dr. Roberts said there is a significantly higher chance of people contracting the flu, which has many of the same symptoms as Ebola. She said the most important thing is not to panic and get your flu shot.
In an email to a Seton Hall public relations manager, Dr. Roberts said, “Do not be afraid, this is a virus that is containable as long as the proper precautions are used.”
The College of Nursing is also hosting an information session about Ebola on Thursday, Oct. 30. This program is only open to the students of the Nursing School and other healthcare related students and faculty. Dr. Roberts, Dr. Scharf and Thomas Giordano will give presentations that provide more information regarding the recent outbreak of Ebola and the response of New Jersey and the national nursing organizations, according to a printed flyer for the event.
Emily Balan can be reached at email@example.com.