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"Team Ebola" nurse honored as AJC 2015 Celebrating Nurses awardee

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Janet Christenbury

Jill Morgan, RN, BSN, an experienced critical care nurse at Emory University Hospital and a member of "Team Ebola" — the care team for Emory’s four patients diagnosed with Ebola virus disease — has been named a top 10 nurse in the 2015 AJC's Celebrating Nurses Nursing Excellence Awards.

A nurse for 29 years, Morgan is a bedside nurse in the medical Intensive Care Unit at Emory University Hospital, caring daily for some of the hospital’s sickest patients.

"There is strength and confidence in Jill when she is standing at the bedside," says Pam Cosper, MSN, nursing specialty director for critical care at Emory University Hospital, who nominated Morgan for the award. "You know that all is going to be okay when Jill is there. And that is a gift."

Besides her job in the ICU, Morgan has also been a part of Emory’s Serious Communicable Disease Unit (SCDU) for more than 10 years. The unit has been in existence since 2002, developed in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to care for CDC employees who became ill while on assignment overseas. Morgan and SCDU team members train and drill regularly to receive patients with unusual and serious infectious diseases, like Ebola virus disease.

In July 2014, when Emory received the call to accept the first patient on US soil who contracted Ebola while on a West African humanitarian mission, Morgan cancelled her vacation plans to go Mexico with her husband, and jumped at the opportunity to care for this patient. A few days later, a second patient infected with Ebola virus disease arrived at Emory.

Morgan and 20 other staff nurses put their training and compassion to work, spending the next few months caring for four patients who came to Emory University Hospital, all infected with Ebola virus disease. 

"It was quite an honor to be able to take care of these patients who were really heroes themselves," says Morgan. "They had sacrificed a lot to care for critically-ill people, whom much of the world would prefer to forget even existed."

Morgan goes on to say, "We had everything we needed to take care of these patients so we could just concentrate on patient care. We had the resources and equipment we needed and believed that, thanks to our training, we could keep each other safe. Emory took such good care of us. I cared for Ebola patients nearly every day for months. We had a team of people dedicated to making sure we kept Ebola in the unit where we could contain it. There was no hesitation from me or from the rest of the team about caring for these patients."

Morgan explains that she and "Team Ebola" learned so much from caring for these four patients, and that knowledge has been passed on to other hospitals and medical teams around the globe.

"I am so grateful to have been a part of this experience. I am one of an entire team of nurses and I am so impressed with our team. I would do it over again in a heartbeat," Morgan says.

Patients, families, peers and supervisors nominated a total of 34 Emory Healthcare nurses for the 2015 AJC Celebrate Nurses Nursing Excellence Awards.

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