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New CDC Sepsis Guidelines: Quick Guide for Nurses & Nursing Students

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Updated September 27, 2023 · 4 Min Read

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New CDC guidelines will help hospitals reduce sepsis mortality. How might these changes affect nurses and nursing students?
New CDC Sepsis Guidelines: Quick Guide for Nurses & Nursing Students
Image Credit: Tempura / E+ / Getty Images
  • In the U.S., 1 in 3 patients who die in a hospital acquired sepsis during hospitalization.
  • The CDC has developed guidelines to improve sepsis survival rates in hospitals.
  • Nurses and nursing students might expect to see changes in sepsis protocols and education.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched new guidelines to help hospital nurses and other clinicians identify sepsis earlier — and save patients' lives.

In the U.S., at least 1.7 million adults develop sepsis in a year, and at least 350,000 of these adults are discharged to hospice care or die during hospitalization.

Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection originating from a particular bodily system — usually the lungs, urinary tract, skin, or gastrointestinal tract. If left untreated, sepsis can quickly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death.

Learn more about how these guidelines could affect nurse training, screening, and patient education at your hospital.

CDC Sepsis Guidelines: What's New?

In a 2022 survey of more than 5,000 U.S. hospitals, 55% provided dedicated time for sepsis program leaders, while over a quarter did not have a sepsis committee.

The CDC’s Hospital Sepsis Program Core Elements aim to help hospitals “implement, monitor, and optimize” sepsis programs to improve outcomes. The guidelines serve as a “manager’s guide” for improving sepsis programs, organizing multidisciplinary staff, and identifying appropriate resources.

The program's core elements include:

  • Leadership Commitment: Dedicating the necessary human, financial, and information technology resources.
  • Accountability: Appointing a leader responsible for program outcomes and setting concrete program goals.
  • Multi-Professional Expertise: Engaging key partners throughout the organization.
  • Action: Implementing structures and processes to improve the identification of, management of, and recovery from sepsis.
  • Tracking: Measuring sepsis epidemiology, outcomes, progress toward program goals, and the impact of sepsis initiatives.
  • Reporting: Providing usable information on sepsis treatment and outcomes to relevant partners.
  • Education: Providing sepsis education to healthcare professionals during onboarding and annually.

Source: CDC

In Light of the New Sepsis Guidelines, What Changes Might Be Coming?

Based on the CDC’s recommendations to facilities on implementing the new guidelines, nurses and nursing students might anticipate new protocols, new screening tools, and extended training.

The Nurse’s New Role in Sepsis Care

  • Utilize standardized sepsis screening tools.

    Nurses might expect new or updated standardized screening tools for early sepsis recognition. Healthcare professionals may be required to use tools upon patients' admission to the facility and throughout their stay.
  • Provide ongoing patient education on sepsis.

    Facilities may develop new or updated sepsis education materials for patients, families, and caregivers. Nurses may be expected to use the materials as a guide for both inpatient and discharge teaching.
  • Ensure safe transfers of patients with sepsis.

    Nurses might see changes in nurse-to-nurse hand-off reporting when transferring patients with sepsis to other departments. Sepsis transfer forms may be required when transferring patients to other health facilities to ensure safe continuity of care.
  • Document sepsis care in real-time.

    Nursing leaders may perform frequent audits on documentation of sepsis cases. Nurses might see an overall push for real-time documentation when caring for patients with actual or suspected sepsis.
  • Anticipate extended staff education on sepsis.

    Nurses might anticipate presentations on sepsis at staff meetings, new nurse orientation sessions, and other informative meetings. Facilities may require annual sepsis training for all nurses and trainees.
  • Engage in leadership roles.

    Facilities may assign one or two nurses to the role of “sepsis nurse champion” to serve as resources to other nurses. Nurses might also anticipate incentives for achieving target goals for sepsis care or outcomes.

The new CDC sepsis guidelines are expected to launch in September to coincide with Sepsis Awareness Month.

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