Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When Ebola protocols are "disrespected"

It's Tuesday.  The day after a Texas nurse is diagnosed with Ebola. The day before the news tells us that a second healthcare worker is likely infected.

It’s a warm day and four gregarious HS seniors, young black women, indulge me as I interrupt their animated talk about some celebrity’s breakup. They’re on their way home from school.  We’re at the Harlem Meer. And I’d like to talk to them about Ebola.

Are you aware of the Ebola outbreak?  
“Yes, sure”
Do you watch the news on TV?
“Not really.” [unanimous response]
“Through the wall…my mother watches in her room and I can hear    it.”

So, where are you getting most of your information about Ebola?
         “Instagram [unanimously]. There’s a hashtag”  
At some point I mention that health officials said that the Texas nurse likely got infected because of “breaches in protocol.” And the head of a national nurse association said that,  "The protocols that should have been in place in Dallas were not in place, and that those protocols are not in place anywhere in the United States as far as we can tell."

What does a “protocol” mean to you?
They are the rules
Something mandatory
         Something that you have to follow
I don’t think it’s generally written down – not a rule of law.
One young woman explains how some people are “disrespecting the protocols of protecting everybody around them.”  She heard that a TV news journalist who is also a doctor didn’t stay home after she returned from Africa, “like she promised.”  
         She broke the rules and  “is putting everyone else in danger.”

We know that the public’s understanding is a moving target.  We take in, mull over, and make meaning relentlessly.

Protocol = rules
People who don’t follow the rules =disrespecting

Is this meaning making about to change, elaborate?

My Instagram tweets reads:


  1. What concerns me most about this whole topic is how health officials responded by blaming the nurse when for weeks they kept insisting that risk of Ebola infection in the U.S. was very low. Then they had to retract and clarify that she may have followed the protocols but they may have been insufficient. Its always easiest to assign blame to the individual and this is always the easiest message to communicate to the public at large. Notice how the girls interviewed only heard that part? And not the part about the potential lack of protocols to begin with. I think the girls understood the message. They understand what a protocol is but their assessment of how it applies to this case was clouded by health officials' initial response.

  2. I do think it is shameful that initially Frieden implied that the nurse was to blame. The Nurses Ass The National Nurses Association really pushed back on that.
    As for the young women in the park - they seem to understand that there are "rules" but as of yesterday, they couldn't give me one example of what kind of rules.
    The "disrespecting" did seem to be blaming the individuals.
    I'd like to go back to them today and see - with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and others, showing us how important it is to put on and take off the protective gear, and national officials acknowledging that training national wide is lacking - I think these girls would have expanded their understanding of "protocol". That's really the why I so value talking to people and hearing them make meaning out of all this. Thanks for the comment.