Reflective accounts

Neutropenic sepsis

A CPD article improved Naomi Forsyth’s knowledge of the identification and management of neutropenic sepsis
patient undergoes chemotherapy

A CPD article improved Naomi Forsyths knowledge of the identification and management of neutropenic sepsis

What was the nature of the CPD activity, practice-related feedback and/or event and/or experience in your practice?

The CPD article discussed the symptoms, treatment and prevention of neutropenic sepsis, which is a potentially life-threatening complication of chemotherapy.

What did you learn from the CPD activity, feedback and/or event and/or experience in your practice?

The article stated that the incidence of neutropenic sepsis has increased, and that all nurses who encounter patients with cancer should be able to recognise neutropenic sepsis and initiate urgent assessment and treatment.

I learned that patients with neutropenic sepsis may present with few, if any, symptoms. Some patients do not present with the usual symptoms of infection, such as elevated

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A CPD article improved Naomi Forsyth’s knowledge of the identification and management of neutropenic sepsis


Neutropenic sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of chemotherapy Photo: SPL

What was the nature of the CPD activity, practice-related feedback and/or event and/or experience in your practice?

The CPD article discussed the symptoms, treatment and prevention of neutropenic sepsis, which is a potentially life-threatening complication of chemotherapy.

What did you learn from the CPD activity, feedback and/or event and/or experience in your practice?

The article stated that the incidence of neutropenic sepsis has increased, and that all nurses who encounter patients with cancer should be able to recognise neutropenic sepsis and initiate urgent assessment and treatment.

I learned that patients with neutropenic sepsis may present with few, if any, symptoms. Some patients do not present with the usual symptoms of infection, such as elevated temperature, because the body’s inflammatory and immune responses are inhibited.

The article outlined the factors associated with serious complications of neutropenic sepsis. Patients aged over 60 years, or those with lower neutrophil counts, thrombocytopenia, leukaemia or lung cancer are at higher risk.

Preventing neutropenic sepsis is essential. The patient’s treatment might be delayed if they become unwell, which can affect their quality of life and survival. Nurses can support patients to plan social events the week before their scheduled chemotherapy, when their neutrophil count is at its highest, promoting social inclusion and minimising risk of sepsis.

How did you change or improve your practice?

I work as a community nurse and often care for patients undergoing chemotherapy. I recently encountered such a patient, who had accidently cut her finger with a knife.

The article reminded me of the need to assess sepsis risk, and I encouraged the patient to attend the emergency department. The article clarified the sequence of care following this exposure to sepsis risk.

The patient would have undergone risk stratification to determine whether she was at low or high risk of developing serious complications as a result of neutropenic sepsis. This can identify patients who require hospitalisation and intensive treatment, and those who may be managed with oral antibiotics, early discharge and self-monitoring. The patient was considered low-risk, and discharged the next day.

I will discuss the importance of infection prevention measures with patients, including hand washing, oral hygiene, and protecting the skin from injury, for example shaving with an electric razor and wearing protective gloves for cleaning and gardening.

I will develop a care plan for patients undergoing chemotherapy that incorporates sepsis risk factors. I hope to categorise the different types of chemotherapy to support my colleagues in understanding the experience of patients with cancer.

How is this relevant to the Code? Select one or more themes: Prioritise people, Practise effectively, Preserve safety, Promote professionalism and trust

Nurses must make sure that patients’ physical, psychological and social needs are assessed and responded to, as part of the theme to prioritise people. The article described the assessment of neutropenic sepsis, including the signs and symptoms of the condition.

The Code states that nurses must promote well-being and prevent ill health. Nurses can achieve this by providing patient information about the signs and symptoms of sepsis, and being aware of the risk of neutropenic sepsis, as outlined in the article.

Naomi Forsyth is a community staff nurse in Reading


This reflective account is based on NS841 Warnock C (2016) Neutropenic sepsis: prevention, identification and treatment. Nursing Standard. 30, 35, 51-58. These questions are the same as those on the NMC templates that UK nurses and midwives must use for revalidation

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