Retired nurses and healthcare professionals seek improved protection for their colleagues on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic
Retirees join frontline nurses who have released PSA videos asking for continued social distancing to help them better care for patients
CANTON, Mass. – Retired nurses and healthcare professionals represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association have released a video message during National Nurses Week calling for improved personal protection equipment (PPE) to keep caregivers safe on the front lines of the pandemic and safeguard their families and communities from the spread of COVID-19.
“We are here as retired nurses to speak on behalf of the working nurses who cannot be here today,” said Karen Coughlin, a former Vice President of the MNA and retired registered nurse who cared for patients for many years at Taunton State Hospital. “They cannot be here because they are the frontline warriors during this pandemic, and are working in a chaotic, stressful and emotionally draining environment.
“We are here to say that what our essential workers really need is a society, a government, and employers who will do their job and provide them with the resources, the equipment and the response they need to be safe during this public health crisis,” Coughlin said. “Our heroes do not need capes, but they do need N95 masks, proper face shields, gowns, disinfectant and whatever other armor is needed to go into battle against this virus.”
The Retirees for PPE video can be viewed at https://youtu.be/hcpn2ydRdWo.
The COVID-19 pandemic – which is requiring great sacrifices of frontline healthcare workers, other essential personnel and the public – has come during the “International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife,” as proclaimed by the World Health Organization in honor of the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth. Nightingale is known as the founder of modern nursing. Her birthdate of May 12 marks the final day of National Nurses Week each year.
MNA Personal Protect Equipment Standards
“At the institutional level we continue to see inconsistent and unsafe approaches to PPE that are unnecessary,” RN and MNA President Donna Kelly-Williams wrote in a recent letter to Gov. Charlie Baker. “You have instructed healthcare facilities to distribute PPE rather than stockpile it for ‘the future,’ but this is not being followed by a number of institutions.
“Healthcare facilities are reporting they have enough masks, but they are still following guidelines that reflect a lower standard of care that allows ‘a standard medical mask’ to healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients – that is not safe.”
The MNA has called on Gov. Baker to:
- Issue an N95 mask directive that when a direct caregiver in a healthcare facility asks for a new N95 mask they will receive one at least once a day. This follows a similar directive issued last week in New York but expands upon it to include all healthcare facilities given the level of exposure that Massachusetts is experiencing in non-acute healthcare facility settings.
- Require consent for de-contaminated mask use because the various “decontamination” methods touted as mitigating the PPE shortage problem remain experimental. We do not know how effective these masks are following several rounds of “decontamination” at stopping the spread of the virus nor do we know the long-term effects on personnel of wearing a decontaminated mask.
- Provide Transparency for PPE so that every healthcare facility is mandated to report its full stockpile of PPE, so caregivers and the state have an accurate assessment of need as we attempt to maximize allocation of resources from the supply chain.
- Require appropriate Training for Donning and Doffing PPE because we have heard repeatedly from staff in the state’s public health hospitals, behavioral health in-patient facilities and group homes that due to a lack of on-site nurse educators, there is not consistency in the training of properly utilizing PPE. The availability of PPE is only helpful if it its properly fitted, donned and doffed.
Read more about the MNA standards for PPE at www.massnurses.org/COVID-19.
MNA National Nurses Week PSA Videos
Last week, nurses on the front lines of the pandemic in every region of the Commonwealth launched a video public service announcement campaign to thank the public for their support and to urge the continuation of social distancing during this unprecedented public health crisis.
See MNA COVID-19 information, including letters to Gov. Baker, position statements, videos and more at www.massnurses.org/COVID-19.
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.