Nursing Students Advocate for Sepsis Education and Awareness in Rural BC

February 6, 2023

In Canada, one in 18 deaths involves sepsis. For those living in rural and remote areas of the country, the risks are higher due to an increased risk of infection that can lead to sepsis and limited access to the care needed to prevent, diagnose, and treat sepsis. Fourth year nursing students Nola, Paris, and Jayden at the College of the Rockies sought to identify potential areas for improvement of sepsis-related care as part of their final year practicum. 

The team were paired with Sybil Hoiss (RN, MN), Leader, Strategic Initiatives; Quality Lead, BC Sepsis Network at the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council (BCPSQC), who provided the students a number of public health issues  to focus on for their practicum, including sepsis. The students started by engaging in a windshield survey targeting healthcare staff at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital to understand their current knowledge of sepsis and where support for further education might be needed.

Healthcare staff reported having a good foundational knowledge about sepsis, and teaching staff available to provide retraining if needed. However, staff, including nursing educators, noted that patients generally had little to know awareness about sepsis, and public education on this syndrome is desperately needed. Furthermore, they lacked patient- and family- focused resources on sepsis that were available to give upon discharge. 

Nola, Paris, and Jayden decided to create a resource for their local population using a (at the time) draft version of a patient-focused post-sepsis syndrome pamphlet that was being created by the Action on Sepsis Research Excellence Cluster at UBC in partnership with the BCPSQC. The team also decided to set up an information booth and engage in a day-long public awareness campaign with the goal of evaluating and increasing public knowledge about sepsis at the Kimberley Health Centre in Kimberley BC (population 8,115 (2021)).

While hosting the booth, they met 6 individuals who had been diagnosed with sepsis in the past 5 years, and some were still struggling with post-sepsis syndrome and other issues resulting from the condition. Those who were aware of the signs and symptoms of sepsis had either been affected directly or had a friend or family member who had been diagnosed. However, patients and booth visitors who had not been personally impacted by sepsis were largely unfamiliar with the term and condition. As a result, they had no idea what it was, the signs/symptoms to watch out for, or how you could get it. To the team, the amount of people completely unfamiliar with sepsis was surprising, and served to demonstrate the need for information and education about sepsis to be promoted throughout the community. 

The nursing students provided pamphlets to anyone interested and encouraged many booth visitors to take one to read while waiting for their appointments. Overall, they reported an extremely positive response to the pamphlets. After meeting with many managers and educators across the East Kootenay Regional Hospital, they are hopeful that the pamphlets become a widely used resource in hospitals and medical clinics throughout British Columbia and beyond.

Nurse advocacy for issues of health is critically important for educating, organizing, and mobilizing for systems of change in population health. We recognize the outstanding work of Nola, Paris, and Jayden in highlighting the importance of sepsis education in communities of all sizes throughout BC. 

The BC Patient Safety & Quality Council hosts the ‘Recovery After Sepsis’ resource for patients, caregivers, and families. Two different versions are available to download, print, or  adapt for health facility:


  • Research Highlight

First Nations land acknowledegement

Action on Sepsis operates on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples — xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. We invite everyone to reflect on the traditional territories and land that they currently work and live on.

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