Nurses Express Concern Over PPE Usage

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Shortages of personal protective equipment have sparked protests from nurses across the country. A global shortage leaving healthcare facilities to ration PPE  has workers feeling uneasy. 

Sherri Dayton, head of the nurses union at Backus Hospital and an emergency room nurse, says the current situation goes against all her training. 

“If we practiced the way we do right now two months ago we would be disciplined for the way we handled our infectious disease,” Dayton said. 

She said the protocols have changed dramatically over the past two months. 

“We would put it on and we would go into the room, and then we would doff it and throw it all away in the garbage. That no longer happens,” Dayton said. 

She said the only thing they are changing from patient room to patient room are their gloves. 
Backus – like so many other hospitals – has implemented new practices according to new CDC guidelines in an effort to conserve PPE. 

Donna Handley, senior vice president at Hartford Healthcare who is in charge of the eastern region that includes Backus Hospital, said keeping their staff safe is the highest priority.  

Handley said they have been tracking the evolution of the virus since last December. 

“Following CDC guidelines we established very clear PPE policies in the organization,” Handley said. 

The first CDC guidance on PPE was issued February 4 when the Health and Human Services Secretary authorized emergency use of additional respiratory protective devices in health care settings. The information was updated on April 2 to explain how use of PPE depends largely on a hospital’s capacity and supply. 

“As we got new data and new evidence we adjusted our PPE policies,” Handley said. 

Handley said the distribution of the PPE is prioritized by the risk of exposure to staff. Some departments might not need as much PPE as the emergency department.  

“The rules and the guidelines are when the mask or the PPE gets soiled it gets changed,” Handley said. 

She said the N95 mask is fitted to each individual staff member. If they are treating a COVID positive patient they put a surgical mask over the N95 mask and then use a face shield. When they leave a patient room that surgical mask is discarded and the N95 mask is preserved to be used again. The hospital is also providing scrubs that staff leave at the hospital before going home. 

“My biggest fear is that I contract it. But not because I’m afraid of dying,” Dayton said. 

 Dayton’s first concern is for her patients and family. 

“We’re afraid of bringing it home and having someone we love contract it,” she said.

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