Calling the Shots: Nursing News and Notes

September: Sepsis Awareness Month

September: Sepsis Awareness Month

Friday, September 15, 2017
Less than 1% of Americans can identify symptoms of sepsis, which is the leading cause of death in US hospitals.

It’s the leading cause of death in US hospitals, yet 4 out of 10 Americans have never heard of sepsis.

Donna Peremes isn’t one of them.

Her father — Robert Peremes, whom she remembers as a “natural-born athlete” who ran the New York Marathon in his 50s, died at 81 from sepsis in the weeks following coflex laminectomy surgery. It was a procedure he had hoped would get him back on the golf course.

Instead, within a week he was rehospitalized with an infection. Two weeks later, he was released to a rehab facility, and then discharged home at his and the family’s request. A week later, after vomiting and passing out, he returned to the hospital for a third stay. He died 3 days later, on his wife’s birthday.

“What I still don’t understand is: Why didn’t anyone at the hospital or any of his doctors tell us that he had or could develop sepsis?” Donna wrote on the Sepsis Alliance website. “By the time I had hunted for his diagnosis on the paperwork sent home with him, he probably had the beginnings of what would become sepsis. There were no checklists for us; nothing that would ever have led us to believe that this infection would kill him.”

But it did.


September is Sepsis Awareness Month. Since 2011, Sepsis Alliance has encouraged organizations, health care systems, and individuals to use this month to intentionally shine a spotlight on sepsis. Every year, sepsis kills more than a quarter million Americans. That’s more than prostate cancer, breast cancer, and AIDS — combined.

Tragically, many of those lives could have been spared with improved public awareness, according to Sepsis Alliance.

“For people to suspect sepsis and get treatment, they need to first understand what it is and how it manifests itself,” said Steven Simpson, MD, FCCP, FACP, chief medical officer for Sepsis Alliance.

Although sepsis awareness is improving (a recent survey of 2,000 adults found 58% had at least heard of sepsis; that’s up from just 19% a decade ago), there is still a significant knowledge gap about what sepsis is and how it presents.

That same survey also found:

  • more Americans have heard of Ebola than sepsis (even though sepsis affects more than 1.6 million Americans a year and Ebola is practically nonexistent in the United States);
  • 39% of Americans mistakenly think sepsis is contagious; and
  • less than 1% can identify the most common sepsis symptoms.


Here’s what Americans need to understand, according to Sepsis Alliance.

  • Sepsis can affect anyone — young people, older adults, people who are generally well, and people who are sick.
  • Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection. The immune system, which is supposed to fight off the infection, goes into overdrive and attacks the body.
  • Sepsis is life threatening. Without the right treatment, it can cause organ failure, amputation, and death.
  • Symptoms to watch for:
    • Shivering, fever, or very cold
    • Extreme pain, general discomfort (“worst ever”)
    • Pale or discolored skin
    • Sleepy, difficult to rouse, confused
    • I feel like I might die.”
    • Short of breath.
  • If a combination of sepsis symptoms is present, call 911 or go to a hospital and say, “I am concerned about sepsis.” Sepsis is a medical emergency and must be treated quickly. For each hour treatment is delayed, the risk of death rises almost 8%.


Sepsis Alliance offers free posters and infographics for spreading the word to patients and families. Post one in a public area or on your social media account today to raise awareness — and perhaps save a life.

In recognition of Sepsis Awareness Month, our colleagues at NursingCenter have assembled a FREE Sepsis resource center with an assortment of infographics, blogs and videos.  Check it out HERE:

The Lippincott Solutions institutional software also contains robust decision-support and CE lesson content on Sepsis which serves clinicians at the bedside, in the classroom, and during research. 

Click HERE to watch an animated video that shows the ‘flow’ of evidence-based information from a Sepsis diagnosis thru our industry leading software.  

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