Survey: Nurses worried about lack of plan, protective equipment for potential COVID-19 spread in US

A recent survey conducted by National Nurses United found that a majority of respondents reported that they are either unaware of a plan in place to isolate a patient with a possible novel coronavirus infection, or that they do not have sufficient personal protective equipment in stock if a community outbreak should occur in the United States. 

National Nurses United, the largest union for registered nurses in the United States, recently released the survey on Feb. 24 from 4,700 respondents regarding whether or not they feel an adequate plan is in place or if they have enough supplies to deal with a possible widespread outbreak of the virus in the U.S.

Only 9 percent of respondents reported that they know of a plan in place to handle isolating a patient infected with the COVID-19 virus. Forty-six percent reported that they have access to N95 respirators on their units, while only 20 percent reported access to powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) on their units. 

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Thirty-one percent of respondents reported that their employer has supplied them with a sufficient amount of personal protective equipment in stock, used to protect staff and those not infected with the virus if their hospitals were to face a possible surge in coronavirus infections. Thirty-eight percent reported they didn’t know if they even had enough supplies. 

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Maureen Dugan, a registered nurse of 31 years who serves on the board of directors for the California Nurses Association, said the problem is that many nurses have been left in the dark when it comes to communication and training for dealing with an outbreak.

She said while there is annual training for nurses that deals with different levels of isolation, the training needs to be more consistent.

FILE - A pedestrian wears a surgical mask as she walks by the VacaValley Hospital on February 27, 2020 in Vacaville, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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Dugan blamed the "for profit" system of American health care for the general lack of preparation many nurses feel in the face of an outbreak. 

"Things like staffing are very expensive, things like equipment and supplies are expensive, so they [health officials] want to keep it to the absolute minimum necessary, and in a case like this, we're not going to have enough of everything needed to care for the public."