Nursing & Healthcare News

Ongoing PPE Woes

ANA survey reveals shortages, frequent reuse

Nurse is removing a mask while wearing an isolation gown and head cover

Is your facility running short on personal protective equipment (PPE)? If so, you’re far from alone. A new ANA survey finds widespread shortages — and widespread reuse of PPE intended to be single-use.

Shortages Persist

Although it’s now more than seven months into the pandemic, the problems of inadequate PPE supplies for healthcare workers have not gone away. The latest ANA survey found that 62 percent of nurses nationwide are still experiencing at least occasional shortages of vital protective equipment.

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This includes N95 respirators, which, along with medical masks, are among the most important tools nurses have for protecting themselves from infection. Although most N95 respirators are intended to be discarded after each use, 68 percent of nurses say their facility requires them to reuse respirators, while 20 percent say reuse is encouraged, though not explicitly required.

Nurses who must reuse respirators often do so for days at a time. Fifty-three percent are required to use each N95 respirator for five or more days. More than a quarter of those nurses say they’re expected to use a single disposable respirator for 15 or more days at a time!

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“We Must Do Better”

It’s clear that such practices are making nurses uneasy. Sixty-two percent of respondents say having to reuse N95 respirators makes them feel somewhat or very unsafe.

“Reuse and decontamination of single-use PPE as the ‘new normal’ is unacceptable,” says ANA President Ernest Grant, RN, Ph.D., FAAN, who calls on the administration and Congress to step up domestic production of urgently needed PPE.

“I am deeply distressed that nurses feel unsafe when they are working around the clock to care for patients, educate the public and protect themselves and their families,” Grant says. “We must and we can do better.”

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