America is now one year into the coronavirus pandemic, with emergency rooms overflowing, vaccines in short supply and more contagious variants lurking. America’s nurses report feeling burned out and unappreciated. Gone are the days of nurses being applauded on their way to and from work. While the media is focused on healthcare workers receiving vaccines, nurses across America continue to report shortages in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
According to Lost on the Frontline, a project launched by The Guardian and KHN, more than 2900 healthcare workers have died of coronavirus in America.
Many hospitals continue to force nurses to reuse onetime only N95 masks and other life-protecting supplies despite availability. These practices are considered substandard.
GetUsPPE.org, a national organization for getting personal protective equipment to frontline workers, reported in January that 86% of nurses said they were re-using N95 masks, often for a week or longer. 82% of healthcare facilities reported reusing gloves.
Nurses continue to state that new N95 masks are kept from them in locked storage areas. In some instances, nurses say they feel forced to choose between providing life-saving care and protecting themselves.
Nurses are threatening to strike to protect themselves and their families. For example, according to National Nurses United, registered nurses in San Joaquin County’s health system were threatening to strike. The strike was halted after the county committed to “bargain in good faith to reach a final contract agreement.”
These shortages have been widely known for months. Recall in March of 2020, Americans were surprised to see nurses providing care wearing trash bags. Many nurses are concerned that these substandard practices around infection control will become the new normal in healthcare settings. Many wonder if hospitals will prioritize stockholders over nurse safety.