Fighting Against Sepsis

September 15, 2015 3:57 pm
Swendroski Vicki, resized

Vicki Swendroski, RN

Sepsis is described as the body’s inflammatory response to an overwhelming infection, causing injury to tissue and organs. It may lead to shock, multiple organ failure, and even death, especially if not recognized early and treated properly. Sepsis is the primary cause of death from infection, despite advances in modern medicine, according to World Sepsis Day materials.

The incidence of sepsis is increasing, mainly due to the aging population of our country. The elderly, extremely young, mentally ill and immunocompromised are the most at risk for developing sepsis.

Symptoms for sepsis can often be tricky, and can consist of the following, according to the Sepsis Alliance:


  • Heart rate >90 beats per minute (bpm)
  • Fast respiratory rate
  • Altered mental status (confusion/coma)
  • Edema (swelling)
  • High blood glucose without diabetes
  • Falling down
  • Hypothermia
  • Confusion

    The cost of treating sepsis is rising. An estimated $14.6 billion was spent on hospitalizations for sepsis in 2008 in the US, not including precious loss of life.

At Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, a key player in the battle against sepsis is Vicki Swendroski, RN, who fills the new role as RN clinician for sepsis.

Swendroski’s immediate goals for taking on sepsis are:

to continue to be visible in the patient care areas,
to facilitate dialogue between health care professionals regarding the care of sepsis patients,
and to reach out to individual provider groups.

Long-term goals include a sustainable education plan that will improve and expedite our process for identifying and treating sepsis patients.

“To begin meeting our goals, we are performing educational simulations for the medical residents, hospitalists, nursing units and any nurse who is new to Mercy Health Saint Mary’s,” said Swendroski. “For sepsis treatment, we strive to have four components completed within an hour. The goal is to get blood cultures from two areas of the body, test the patient’s lactate level and prescribe the patient antibiotics and fluids to fight the infection.”

Swendoski noted that prevention of infection, which causes sepsis, plays a big role in preventing sepsis altogether. Although Swendroski is the “face of fighting sepsis,” recognizing and treating sepsis is an organizational goal, one that we are striving to improve upon each day.

Questions about sepsis? Please contact Swendroski with any sepsis-related questions or concerns:


bobbi shirley

Hello Vicki, Thank you for talking about Sepsis. I work on an oncology unit and we would like to start education on sepsis. How did you start?

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