Nurses Take Precautions to Prevent COVID-19 Transmission
Telling a nurse to practice social distancing is fruitless. They’re on the front lines of treating COVID-19 patients — social distancing just isn’t an option. To make matters worse, personal protective equipment (PPE) is running low, and contingency measures already have nurses rationing supplies. The risk of exposure is high and growing higher. It’s important for nurses to protect themselves and to take precautions to not become carriers.
Nurses are at high risk of exposure
While the majority of the nation is working from home and spending time indoors to practice safe social distancing, nurses are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. Sick patients in the emergency room and inpatient hospital beds need constant care, and nurses are the ones who must maintain close personal contact to deliver it.
Unfortunately, this means nurses have some of the highest risk when it comes to contracting COVID-19. Each exposure to a patient with this highly contagious disease increases the risk.
On top of the already high risk for exposure, nurses and other healthcare providers must grapple with a widespread shortage of PPE — namely N95 masks, gloves, and gowns. These shortages mean that nurses are unable to adequately protect themselves when treating sick patients. Some nurses are being forced to reuse masks, which may introduce a new series of challenges and risks for both staff and patients.
It’s also believed that the virus behind COVID-19 has a high viral load, meaning people infected with it shed lots of virus particles. A growing body of evidence suggests that continued exposure to COVID-19 and its viral load may worsen the symptoms of the disease and the condition’s severity. For this reason, it’s even more important for nurses to take protective measures.
Add these things to the long hours and high stress of the job, and nurses’ risk of falling ill is extraordinary. Not only is this risky for healthcare providers but also for their families, colleagues, and housemates.
How to protect yourself on shift
Some nurses are banding together to collect and create masks to maintain at least some protection. Hospitals are implementing new policies and procedures to ensure minimal contact with COVID-19 patients and the preservation of PPE.
There are other things nurses and their teams can do to remain as safe as possible and reduce their exposure — and, by extension, their family’s exposure — to the virus.
Redistributing workloads as much as possible, including training more nurses on intensive care procedures, can alleviate the pressure placed on in-demand hospital units and provide a more robust workforce. If nurses get sick, they should discuss the situation with their supervisor and take sick time immediately to avoid any potential virus transmission.
Patient communication is more important than ever. Asking a few simple questions prior to close contact could help nurses identify COVID-19 symptoms and ensure they’re properly prepared before exposure.
It’s also important for nurses to find time for physical and mental wellbeing to reduce stress and bolster the immune system. Adequate sleep, proper nutrition, and time for relaxation are crucial during these anxiety-filled times.
Finally, during or after a shift, nurses should make sure they’re removing potentially contaminated clothing before returning home and washing it thoroughly after each use.
These precautionary measures can help #FlattenTheCurve on both ends — the public’s exposure to the illness, as well as the hospital infrastructure’s ability to keep up with patient needs. Nurses staying safe helps keep the community at large healthy!