Nurses plead for help during coronavirus pandemic

Posted at 4:26 PM, Mar 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-20 19:52:58-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Nurses say they're approaching a breaking point amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A San Diego registered nurse spoke to 10News, but asked we don't identify her out of fear she would lose her job, to explain what she and other healthcare workers on the front lines are experiencing.

She said Thursday night she saw a post on a nursing social media page stating nurses were encouraged not to wear N95 masks in the Intensive Care Unit.

Also circulating on social media is a petition titled, "US Physicians/Healthcare Workers For Personal Protective Equipment in COVID-19 Pandemic." The petition garnered more than 800,000 signatures by Friday afternoon.

Part of the argument is the CDC downgraded the mode of transmission from aerosol to droplets. That means a surgical mask is allowed over the more sturdy N95 mask.

"Things that are frightening us the most is 1. Nurses are not allowed to bring their own N95 masks from home, we are not allowed to enter the hospital with them. 2. Management has been asking nurses not to wear their masks in hallways, or at the nursing station... and otherwise nurses have been written up with HR if they do not remove the masks... Masks having been removed from floors and only held by management," the unnamed nurse said, adding some hospitals nurses are only allowed one per shift.

That is what's causing some nurses to panic. The nurse said there's been talk about refusing patient care until they are supplied with what they deem sufficient protection equipment.

That is spelled out in their responsibilities under the Board of Registered Nursing:

...the RN can refuse the assignment if the RN determines she/he is not competent to provide safe nursing care.
The RN is always responsible for providing safe, competent nursing care
Board of Registered Nursing

"So there's been talk around that, is it right? Is it ethically right? Is it morally right to refuse a patient when we're not totally protected ourselves? Because we're in fact putting other patients at risk," she says.

On her wish list is a daily briefing to let nurses know the daily count on how many have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and when more personal protective equipment is coming.

"I am really proud and happy to be a part of these front line workers and I feel the stress and anxiety and fear around going to work. I just want everyone to know we're all in this together and to stay positive and to continue to find a solution," she said.

10News reached out to several hospitals in San Diego and received these responses:

"Protecting our staff and physicians so they can care for patients and meet this community need is a top priority at Scripps Health. Scripps provides its nurses with the masks they need. Nurses are supplied with a mask for each shift, and receive a new one if they interact with a patient with COVID-19, a patient under investigation for COVD-19, or if the mask becomes soiled." - Scripps Health.

"We cannot comment on whether the incident below took place or did not. [Referring to whether nurses weren't allowed to bring their own N95 masks.] That said, we do not have a policy; however if an employee wanted to use their own mask, the mask would need to be vetted by our experts to be sure that it meets the appropriate standard." - A Sharp representative