The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday May 26th

Pit Talk

Nursing school "town hall style" forum talks Ebola

On Monday, UNC's School of Nursing hosted an event that brought scholars, health care providers and faculty members from different disciplines to discuss facts and their fears about Ebola against the backdrop of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. 

William Fischer, a professor at UNC's School of Medicine, traveled to Gueckedou, Guinea to help local rural communities affected by Ebola. He said lack of basic services and infrastructure, such as shortage of water and bathrooms, is one major reason that Ebola has spread so quickly in West Africa. 

“They don’t have many of the things that they need to keep themselves safe that we have on a everyday basis here, and that’s one of the major differences," he said. 

Fischer said since there is currently no cure for Ebola, it’s essential for healthcare providers to keep patients alive long enough to let their immune system kick in. He said if a patient is alive on the 14th day, the patient will have about 75 percent chance of survival.

“If we can provide that support and care to keep people alive long enough, we can get them through it,” Fischer said.

Benny Joyner, a professor at UNC's School of Medicine, said simulation experience is valuable for health professionals because it helps identify the issues that may occur, especially when health care providers and physicians are covered by personal protection equipment used to minimize their exposure to viruses. 

Fischer said inter-professional simulation is important because it will refine the professionals’ skills so they are able to deal with future crises. 

“Ebola will eventually go away, and you know, the fall away from popular media, but we can’t lose sight of, really, the structure of learning that we are able to implement in this because there is another threat coming out of the corner,” he said.

Rumay Alexander, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs in the School of Nursing, said the Ebola crisis has created its own flavor of fear that affects the way people interact with one another. 

“Fear is a self-centered emotion,” Alexander said. “It makes us automatically forgot about others.”

She said fear creates an 'us vs. them' mentality that isolates certain groups of people.

“We in this country also have a large group of people who are suspicious of globalization, and what it does to their jobs and their communities. So they basically use this information about Ebola to point out or to confirm some of the points that they have been making all along,” Alexander said.

Dalton Sawyer, director of Emergency Preparedness and Continuity Planning, said the preparation for the Ebola crisis requires efforts from professionals with different backgrounds who can learn from past experiences. 

“It takes inclusive thoughts, it takes diverse thoughts. There is no bad idea, and every idea deserves consideration,” he said.

Fischer said UNC administration has the difficult task of balancing between helping health professionals assist people affected by Ebola overseas and making sure these professionals are safe.

“UNC has been nothing but supportive in allowing me to do the work (in Africa),” he said.

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