Careers: Nursing/Nurses and Zoonotic Diseases
I am currently a pre-nursing student and I have a question about the nurseís role in preventing zoonotic diseases. I have always been fascinated with zoonoses and I would love to be able to educate patients about them. I am aware that some zoonotic diseases are rare for a human to catch, but I would still like to educate people on prevention. Therefore, are nurses allowed to talk to patients on how to avoid getting certain types of zoonotic diseases (such as rabies)? I am aware that this kind of education is usually the veterinarianís job, but I was just wondering if nurses would be able to talk to patients about them as well (if the opportunity presents itself of course).
One area that patients (mainly cat owners) should be educated about is the prevention of catching zoonoses from feline vectors. I love cats and I care about their welfare a lot; that is why I think that pet cats should stay indoors since it will benefit the catís health as well as their owners. Studies show that outdoor/ free roaming cats have an extremely higher risk of catching a disease since they like to hunt; therefore owners may have a higher risk of contracting a zoonotic disease. That is why I was wondering if, if the opportunity presents itself, would it be okay for a nurse to talk to a patient about keeping their cat indoors. I am aware that the nurse canít force the patient into doing anything, but it wouldn't hurt to educate the patient.
Most cat owners that let their cats roam outside do it because they think that it is cruel to confine them indoors. However the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the International Society of Feline Medicine has laid out guidelines which outline how to enrich a catís indoor environment. This includes setting up high vertical spaces for the cats to perch on, and playing with the cat for at least a couple of minutes a day so that their need to hunt is satisfied. Therefore I was also wondering if it would be okay for a nurse to tell a patient that it is possible for a cat to be happy indoors (again, if the opportunity presents itself). Would it also be okay to point them to the resources that will help them do so (ex: giving them the web address to the environmental needs guidelines). Other things that owners can to do lower a catís chance of catching a disease is to get their cat vaccinated; all of these things will really help the patients and their cats.
I am very passionate about educating patients about zoonotic diseases, especially pet owners, since I donít want anything bad to happen to them as well as the animal. It is my dream to become a community health nurse, but I also want to work in other areas of nursing (like the ER) in order to get some experience first. That is why I want to know if I, as a nurse, would be able to educate individuals as well as communities about zoonotic disease prevention. Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you shortly!
ANSWER: Hello Summer,
What a great question. As nurses it is vital to our occupation and to patients health that education be part of our standard of practice. As ER Nurses we see dog, cat, bat, bird, snake, and insect bites. We have to educate and also start the rabies series if valid documentation cannot be found. In NC we also have quite a few raccoon and fox bites. It is such a wonderful part of nursing to be able to help your patients with education and prevention with the things you are passionate about and even prevention of things such as lyme disease. I hope this helps you, and good luck with your dreams and goals. If I can help you with anything further please feel free to ask. Warmest regards, KathleenY2
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QUESTION: First of all thank you so much for answering my question! I was hoping that you could answer two more though. Would it be out of line to talk to a patient about keeping a pet cat indoors since outside cats have a higher chance of getting a zoonose(only if they let their cat outdoors of course)? I would also explain to them that indoor cats can be just as happy as free roaming ones, and I would give them the link to a pdf that talks about that.
Would it also be out of line to suggest that the patient could play with their cat with toys a little more to prevent bites and scratches (since cats mostly bite/ scratch their owners because they want to satisfy their need to hunt)? These are only suggestions of course, and I could always just give them the web address to a feline behavior brochure that is informative and an easy read. Thanks again and I hope to hear from you soon!
These are great educational opportunities for your patient if it involves a cat bite. You are very knowledgeable and passionate about the subject, and I think any person would benefit from having this knowledge. Good luck and warmest regards, KathleenY2