Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Share this article on:

Recognizing Sepsis in the Adult Patient

Nelson, Delores Privette BSN, RN; LeMaster, Teressa H. BSN, RN, CCRN; Plost, Gerald N. MD; Zahner, Michael L. MPH, RN, NE-BC

AJN The American Journal of Nursing: March 2009 - Volume 109 - Issue 3 - p 40–45
doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000346928.90369.10

Patients in every health care setting are at risk for systemic inflammatory response syndrome, sepsis, severe sepsis, and even septic shock. The increasing incidence of sepsis, especially among older adults, its high mortality rate, and its subtle and rapid progression make prompt recognition and treatment imperative. Even though severe sepsis requires treatment in the ICU, the assessment of sepsis isn't solely the domain of the physician, critical care nurse, or ED nurse. Improving outcomes in patients with sepsis depends on every nurse involved in their care. The case study presented here is of a nursing home resident with unrecognized sepsis that progresses to severe sepsis—at which point not even seven days' treatment in the ICU could halt the progression to multiple organ failure.

The progression of sepsis is subtle, rapid, and often deadly. With hospitalization rates for severe sepsis almost doubling between 1993 and 2003, it's a major challenge in hospitals.

Delores Privette Nelson is an RN data analyst at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Teressa H. LeMaster is coordinator of the sepsis rapid response team, Gerald N. Plost is medical director for critical care, and Michael L. Zahner is nursing director of cardiac care services. The authors of this article have disclosed no significant ties, financial or otherwise, to any company that might have an interest in the publication of this educational activity.

Contact author: Delores Privette Nelson,

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.