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Nurses are furious, may picket, over inadequate Ebola training

Mike Stone/Getty Images

The country's largest nursing union is considering the possibility of picketing hospitals if they do not offer more extensive training on how to treat Ebola patient.

Nurses United executive director RoseAnn DeMoro said in a conference call Wednesday that her group may take "pretty dramatic action for nurses across the country" that could "escalate into possible pickets at hospitals."

"We have heard consistently across the country that there are no protocols in place," she said.

On the same call, nurses lamented the lack of training they have so far received, arguing that few hospitals have adequately prepared them to treat Ebola patients without a risk of becoming infected.

Those who spoke cited brief trainings — sometimes 10 minutes or fewer — and two-page leaflets that hospitals have offered to their workers. Many have not received interactive demonstrations of how to put on personal protective gear, which can be complex and takes many steps to do successfully. One nurse in Washington, DC said she and her colleagues asked for better protective goggles, only to be told they weren't coming — the new goggles were too expensive.

These complaints are concerning because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that every hospital needs to prepare for the possibility of Ebola turning up in their emergency room.  "Every hospital in the country needs to be ready to diagnose Ebola," CDC director Thomas Frieden said in a Tuesday news conference.

While there are four, specialized biocontamination units in the United States — one, at Emory University, is now treating a Texas nurse infected while treating patient Eric Duncan — its unrealistic to expect possible patients to turn up at that small handful of hospitals. That means any hospital could be where an Ebola patient arrives next.

But, at least from the nurses' perspective, that preparation isn't happening — and, if the situation doesn't change, could result in the caregivers walking off the job.

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