Not Missing a Beat

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Suburban anti-sepsis video entertains and empowers nurses to act quickly

It’s catchy the first time you hear it. Listen a time or two more and the beat and, more importantly, the message get stuck in your head.

It is an educational video on sepsis, which sounds routine enough. But Sepsis Is Serious is delivered via an infectious hip-hop rhythm.

RN Alicia Folk’s quirky knack for rhyming lyrics sparked the idea for the witty and effective video. Folk’s raps provided the cornerstone of a serious, comprehensive campaign at Suburban to raise awareness among staff members of a fast-acting and potentially fatal infection too-commonly seen in hospitals.

“We here at Suburban encourage nurses’ development. We want them to help with the communication of ideas,” says Patricia Gabriel, RN, clinical nurse educator for the Emergency, Trauma, Pediatrics, and Clinical Decisions units at Suburban Hospital. “So here was a staff nurse who said, ‘I think I have a really cool idea to get this message across.’ Hospital leadership and administration supported it. It’s a great example of our collaborative nursing practice model.”

While a nationwide sepsis awareness campaign has been ongoing for years, Suburban’s Andrew Markowski, MD, spearheaded an initiative to personalize it at this Bethesda hospital. Unique to Suburban’s campaign? It introduces a comprehensive and systematic protocol for responding to sepsis immediately: “The protocol would give nurses autonomy to initiate certain steps if a patient met the given criteria,” Gabriel explains.

Because early signs of sepsis can be tricky to ID, Markowski first presented the latest data that assured nurses what steps should be taken in any suspected case. “He really helped us understand the science of it,” Gabriel says.

Then, Folk and other Emergency Department staffers figured out a fun way to convey it to colleagues. Dani Crane, RN, a 24-year-old clinical nurse at Suburban, was one of the first to volunteer. “Alicia was the star performer, and she developed the rap. Then I thought, ‘I’m game for making a fool of myself,’ ” says Crane, who last performed in high school plays.

In the video, Crane, Folk (who recently left Suburban), and others dance around a bedridden patient as they rap. It was a hit not just in Suburban’s ED but throughout the Johns Hopkins medical system, earning first prize at its fifth annual Patient Safety Summit.

Gabriel says that since the campaign rollout, she’s observed strong anecdotal evidence that nurses are more proactive in testing for sepsis. “We have a huge increase in the number of patients getting their serum lactate drawn [to look for unusual levels of lactic acid in blood], which means staff members are thinking about it,” she says.

Lyrics from the rap
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