Victor Camp, an investigator with the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit, gives an overview on the dangers of meth labs to a group of emergency department nurses at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Wednesday morning. The lecture was set to coincide with Emergency Nurses Day.
ALBANY, Ga. — This week is National Emergency Nurses week, and this year, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital’s emergency department staff is throwing a week-long educational celebration.
As part of that, someone from the law enforcement community came in to speak to the staff.
On Emergency Nurses Day, which was Wednesday, Victor Camp, an investigator with the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit, spoke on the dangers of meth labs and indoor grown marijuana.
Camp gave an overview of how meth is produced, and the signs nurses and emergency medical technicians ought to look for in someone who might be under the influence of the drug.
Meth labs just by themselves have potential to increase emergency room traffic because of the ingredients needed to make it, which are often corrosive, flammable and explosive. Meth labs can also expose a person to phosphine gas, which is highly toxic.
The lithium batteries alone pose a hazard. “If just one drop of water gets on the lithium, it will blow up,” Camp said.
When meth labs first came into being, the drug was produced with hardware similar to what may be found in a laboratory. Now, it is made primarily with old glasses in a person’s kitchen.
“There was a Moultrie case in 2001 where a woman was cooking meth on one side of the stove and cooking dinner on the other side,” Camp recalled.
Those who have used meth tend to be hyper one minute and slow the next, and often begin to abandon personal hygiene habits. They may also have a high pulse, dilated pupils, paranoia, mood swings as well as a high body temperature, experts say.
The vapors produced from meth labs get on clothes — which if proper measures aren’t taken — can result in entire ambulances or emergency rooms having to be scrubbed down. This is why those exposing themselves to a meth lab, as well as those who have been in one, are expected to put on protective suits, Camp said.
The effect of meth is often felt within 10 seconds, and can stay in a person’s system longer if its smoked, Camp said.
Throughout the week, guest speakers were expected to meet with Phoebe nurses to discuss additional topics such as stress management and pediatric trauma. The lecture on Wednesday coincided with a breakfast buffet, and was followed by an Emergency Center Staff Award celebration.
Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard was among those in attendance at the breakfast.
Cynthia Chaney, an educator for Phoebe’s emergency center, said that such programs can be helpful in a nurse’s line of work — especially since an emergency room nurse constantly stays busy, and is expected to have a wide knowledge base in order to function.
“Drugs are so strong in the community, not just this community but all communities,” she said. “Technology is making it more available not just to adults, but also to youth. Nurses need to know what to look for, and how to protect patients and themselves.
“Twenty years ago, we didn’t see drugs (like meth) as much.”
Officials with Phoebe say that about 55,000 patients a year come through the hospital’s emergency room. Nurses in the emergency center can generally expect to see up to 180 patients a day, with an average ratio of three or four patients per nurse, Chaney said.