A survey conducted by National Nurses United (NNU) reveals that hospitals and healthcare institutions across the country still do not have a handle on resources and staff when it comes providing care for patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), even as the death toll from the virus continues to increase.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) continue to be in short supply, healthcare personnel aren't afforded workplace protections, and basic prevention and control processes aren't in place.
NNU is the US's largest union of registered nurses (RNs) and surveyed 15,000 nurses for its latest report. Participants divulged issues with access to COVID-19 tests, protection from exposure, and notifications regarding potential exposure. Impact on mental health and growing workplace violence were other major concerns.
More than 80% of nurses in the survey reported reusing single-use PPEs and just under half said they did not use a PPE when dealing with patients who might have COVID-19. This is not surprising considering the PPE crisis the country is now facing.
Healthcare facilities across the country are not prepared for the surge in hospitalizations that should be anticipated with the flu season and coronavirus raging on, the survey found. Only 18% of RNs surveyed indicated that their facility had plans in place to accommodate the expected high number of cases.
Less than half the RNs acknowledged that all patients at their hospitals were screened for COVID-19. All patients should be screened for COVID-19 to avoid unnecessary spread of infections. Additionally, EDs where patients may not get screened for COVID-19 lack sufficient PPEs for staff. Only 16.5% of hospital RNs reported the availability of universal PPE in EDs. Dedicated COVID-19 areas in hospitals are also lacking with only 60% of RNs in hospitals acknowledging that their institutions have COVID-19-dedicated areas.
Additionally, nurses are not getting tested for COVID-19 or being updated about their infection status as often as they should. Over 70% of participants said they were not informed about exposure to the virus expediently. A third of RNs and just over 40% of RNs who work in hospitals admitted to ever being tested for COVID-19 – a strikingly low number for frontline workers in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
Thirty percent identified being short-staffed as their number one concern – as staffing shortages are a problem at over 40% of hospitals where nurse participants worked. In fact, mass resistance by healthcare workers are occurring across the country for these reasons, including hundreds of nurses who recently went on strike due to staff shortages in the Philadelphia area.
Mental health concerns abound, with over 60% of participants saying they are feeling sad or depressed, and more than 70% expressing fear of contracting the virus. Workplace violence is also a concern, with 20% of participants experiencing it. In fact, violence against healthcare workers has been going up in recent years, and these incidences are often underreported.
It is important to confront these issues facing our frontline workers who are literally putting their lives on the line in our battle against COVID-19.