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ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – There are 76 healthcare workers now being monitored for Ebola symptoms. All of the individuals helped care for Thomas Eric Duncan in one way or another. Dallas nurse Nina Pham was of course among those people. Pham remains hospitalized at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas where she is now an Ebola patient.
The risk of catching infectious diseases is a danger nurses know well. CBS 11 News spent Tuesday talking to current and future nurses about the risks posed by their chosen career.
Every student spoken to at the University of Texas at Arlington said the current Ebola situation doesn’t have anyone rushing to change majors. The reason for that, they said, is because nursing is not just a profession – it’s a passion.
News that it was Pham, a nurse, who contracted the Ebola virus from her patient, has awakened the nation to the risks that accompany the nursing career.
Speaking as a nursing student Rocky Sonemangkhara said, “Of course there’s always risk to everything and you have to worry about those. But, that’s not your primary focus.”
Nursing students at UT Arlington say there is no fear among classmates — no panic. In fact, most see the Ebola crisis as a problem to be solved.
“We want to figure it out. We want to know what we can do to protect ourselves and our patients, and how we can eliminate this threat,” nursing student Chandler Tice said matter-of-factly.
Students say safety is one of the first and most critical lessons the college teaches. Maria Moreno-Quinones explained that there are lessons and tasks that must be mastered to reach each step in the nursing program. “If we don’t know how to do hand washing we’re not able to advance,” she said. “If we don’t know how to wear our protective gear we’re not able to advance. These are very simple skills, which determine our advancement.”
All of those lessons are real-time reminders of the risk involved in careers as professional nurturers. But are the challenges giving students pause? “No, not at all,” said Chandler. “It makes me more excited to get in there and to see what we can do and how we can change this and make an effect on everyone, because people are scared.”
When it comes to Nina Pham, nursing students are calling her a hero. Moreno-Quinones said her emotions were a temporary roller coaster. “At first, it was heartbreaking. Then it turned into a sense of pride, to know that I am going to be one of those nurses. We value servant hood.”
Nurses say they understand that they can’t pick and choose who will receive their care – even if it puts their lives at risk.
When Ceil Flores, who has been a registered nurse for more than three decades, thinks about Pham being at the center of Dallas’ Ebola situation she said, “Why wouldn’t she be there? That is what we do.”
Flores, who is now on the faculty of the UTA Nursing School, says she’s extremely proud of her colleagues at Presbyterian Hospital. And just like those at the forefront of the crisis, she says she would not hesitate to offer care to a contagious patient.
“We know when patients come to the hospital and they receive nursing care, we may acquire some of what they have,” she said. “But we also know there are many mechanisms in place to protect ourselves.”
Meanwhile, Moreno-Quinones will graduate in December and says she is looking forward to a future of full-time professional nurturing. “We start with an attitude of unselfish concern. I think that’s what makes the difference.”
(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
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