Nurses are one of the frontline forces all around the world. They are the ones fighting while the remaining of us are safe in our homes. Many of us do not even know the dangers that they are exposing themselves to. After all, they also their families to take care of. We expect the nurses to work at their best. Still, how will they treat the sick if they become sick? Something avoidable just by providing them with adequate PPE.
WHAT IS PPE?
Personal protective equipment or PPE’s is the first line of barrier. It prevents the person from catching an infection. These are most common in hospitals and clinics. WHO has given guidelines for the rational use of PPE’s for COVID-19. These include Medical mask, gown, gloves, and eye protection. These PPEs are the basic requirements for every health care worker. However, what will happen if these PPEs run out of stock?
HOW WORSE IS THE PROBLEM?
We look at Italy, which is one of the worse stricken countries by the COVID-19. The pandemic of COVID-19 has collapsed its health care systems. Their frontline workers, the doctors, nurses, paramedical staff are all in constant danger. Such people are at higher risk of catching the infection. According to a local news channel, approximately 8.3% of health care workers have COVID-19.
The figures in Spain are also more or less the same. According to their local news, 4000 health care workers have contracted the new virus. It includes the nurses as well. All this is because they did not have adequate equipment against the Coronavirus.
The #GetMePPE is trending on social media. The front liners are posting pictures of themselves working without any protective gear. The rest of the countries prepare for the worst phases of the infectious disease. Not providing PPE’s to health care providers will increase the number of positive cases.
WHAT IS THE STANDARD PROTOCOL OF PPEs FOR NURSES?
The OSHA publications for the pandemic contains the following standards of PPE’s
1. Disposable gloves
Latex, vinyl, nitrile, or any other synthetic gloves is appropriate for use. Remove or discard the gloves after contact with the patient. Perform hand hygiene practice after removing the gloves. In the time of the pandemic, avoid wasting resources. Therefore, there is no need to use double gloves.
Use gowns of appropriate lengths. Those, which fully cover the nurses, are appropriate. After the patients receive their care, remove the gown for disposal or laundry
3. Goggles or face shields
If the patient is, coughing or sneezing, then he is likely to splutter infectious fluid. Therefore, any patient within 3 feet of the patients must wear eye and face shield. It is applicable for a routine checkup as well as during aerosol-generating procedures.
4. Surgical Masks and Respirators
Healthcare workers must understand the difference between the two. Surgical masks do not provide much protection against contaminants. That is because the mouth and nose are not completely sealed. So some of the contaminated air can still pass through. On the other hand, respirators have filters in them. These block out gases and other contaminants. Moreover, they perfectly seal the mouth and nose. However, during this pandemic, do not waste masks by wearing them in unnecessary places while those in critical care wear respirators.
The hospital must guide their health care workers on which mask to wear and in which situations. WHO and CDC has also published a list of recommended PPEs. The list is a comprehensive guide about which person should wear what PPE. These lists provide details of PPEs based on setting and type of activity. It is essential for those who need guidance for their healthcare workers.
WHAT PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES SHOULD THE NURSES TAKE?
There is a guideline given by CDC for nurses who have had potential exposure to the COVID-19.
1. High-Risk Exposure Category
- It includes those nurses who are in close contact with COVID-19 patients. These patients were not wearing masks. High-risk areas include those where respiratory procedures take place. It means those nurses working in this area are at great risk.
- People in this category should undergo active monitoring. Such people are under the responsibility of the state or the public health authority. It means that they should regularly communicate with these authorities about any symptoms. Such people should check themselves for any symptoms every day.
- If the nurse develops any kind of symptoms, then they should leave work and self-isolate. The nurses should also notify their health care authorities. It will help in taking necessary preventive measures.
2. Medium Risk Exposure Category
- Nurses in this category are those who have close contact with COVI-19 patients. These patients, yet, are wearing masks. It also includes those nurses who work in a room with a high risk of exposure
- Such nurses also undergo active monitoring.
- If the nurses develop symptoms, then they should self-isolate themselves. Such nurses should not continue to work.
STRATEGIES FOR OPTIMIZING SUPPLY OF PPE
The CDC has written a set of guidelines to ensure the most supply of PPE during this pandemic. These include three types of capacity
1. Conventional capacity
In such cases, the PPE is enough to provide adequate care to the patient. In such cases, use PPE according to their labels and requirements
2. Contingency Capacity
It is when there is a shortage of PPE. In such cases, cancel all non-urgent procedures and appointments where you need PPEs.
3. Crisis Capacity
In such cases, there is an extreme shortage of PPEs. Use the PPEs beyond their shelf life. These measures are in addition to the measures taken for contingency capacity. You can reuse facemasks in crisis capacity.
If there are no masks available, then use face shields. These cover the front and side of the face.
In the fight against this pandemic, various health care professionals are a great risk. The exhaustion of PPE has led to a state of panic. It has put the lives of those health care professionals at a higher risk.
Please remembers that your lives are as important as others are. It is impossible to win this war against the disease without our health care providers. The public should also not hoard these PPEs and should give them away at hospitals.