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Survey Shows Nurses Still Having to Reuse PPE for COVID Patients

The study surveyed more than 21,000 nurses; 58 percent said that they were reusing single-use PPE like N95 masks for five or more days and 68 percent said that reusing single-use PPE was required at their facility.

A recent survey by the American Nurses Association found that six months into the coronavirus pandemic, nurses on the frontlines are still being forced to take alarming and dangerous measures because of a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The study surveyed more than 21,000 nurses and found that 58 percent said that they were reusing single-use PPE such as N95 masks for five or more days. Sixty-eight percent said that the practice of reusing single-use PPE is required by their facilities’ policy. And 38 percent said they are still decontaminating single-use PPE for reuse.

“It’s troubling that six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses continue to report that PPE shortages persist and reuse practices of single-use PPE are on the rise despite a lack of standard practices and evidence of safety,” said Dr. Ernest Grant, president of the American Nurses Association, in a conference call.

Grant said the continued practice of reusing single-use PPE contributes to the burden on nurses, elevating emotional stress and is counter to promoting a safe environment for not only the nurses but also patients and the community.

“Nurses say they feel unsafe given the ongoing issue with PPE and are concerned about the health of patients and their families and friends,” Grant said. “We cannot afford to have a nursing profession that is not supported and one in which our nurses do not feel safe.”

Grant called it a moral imperative that the nation’s leaders do everything possible to arm and protect nurses and other critical responders during the crisis. “Doing so is vital to the nation’s ability to effectively respond to the virus, effectively recover and restore health,” he said.

Dr. Tener Veenema, faculty director of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, added that, “The health of nurses is inextricably linked to patients and to the public and to our communities, and so all efforts to ensure the protection and sustainment of this workforce are a sound investment that will translate into positive health outcomes for all of us.”

She said “science saves lives” and that the optimal way to prevent airborne transmission during a pandemic like the coronavirus is to use the combination of interventions from across a hierarchy of infectious control strategies. So not just PPE alone but looking at engineering and administrative strategies as well.”

The CDC recommends an N95 mask, along with a full face shield or goggles to protect the eyes and the use of an isolation gown and a pair of clean, non-sterile gloves and all are critical to the protection of nurses and other health-care workers.

Veenema lamented that the survey results suggested, “That we’re still seeing periodic, intermittent use of PPE and some nurses reporting being asked to reuse and to decontaminate and reuse.”

She said there are specific guidelines for extended use or reuse of N95 masks that are very specific about the criteria that have to be met when asking an employee to either extend the use of an N95 mask through an entire shift as opposed to just one patient or beyond.

“Yes, we have options for cleaning and disinfecting or decontamination but I will say that all of these strategies, which have been reported, come with pros and cons.”