Should nurses always have N95 masks?

Before the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the importance of N95 respirators, the way it is acknowledged today, was undiscovered at that time. A surgical mask, otherwise known as a medical mask was sufficient for anyone working in the healthcare sector. From doctors, nurses to even people working in the hospital wards, a surgical mask was sufficient enough for their protection. In-fact, before the coronavirus, a surgical mask was only worn in hospitals when an individual was in direct contact with a patient or as part of an operation or surgery.

However, that’s not quite the case these days. Surgical masks aren’t considered efficient against coronavirus because of their loose seal and the fact that they only protect against fluids and bacterial droplets only makes them quite futile against the virulent COVID-19. Since hospitals have been the busiest during the pandemic and filled with symptomatic or COVID-positive individuals, they are not the safest place to be for anyone. But for the healthcare professionals and other people who work in hospitals, it was challenging and daunting for them to cope with this situation and work in an environment that also had the potential of taking their lives.

To ensure their safety to the utmost level, the healthcare workers were strictly advised to wear N95 respirators and other necessary personal protective equipment at all times. It was a well-established fact by then that a simple surgical mask was in no way suitable for them since these frontline workers were required to work in close proximity to the COVID-positive patients. But just like the phrase “easier said than done” goes, the execution of this strict rule was a strenuous task itself because of the shortage of N95s and PPE.

The N95 crisis

When the outbreak reached America, the country didn’t have many N95 masks and the little amount that was left in stock vanished after the news of the outbreak reached the public. What followed was the scarcity of N95s in hospitals and the government pushing the manufacturers to speed up their production to curb the shortage. The former president even exercised the liberty of signing the DPA with some top-notch manufacturers who were required to deliver a bulk quantity of N95s in a very short period in light of the signed contract.

Despite the contract, there were still many hospitals that were dealing with the problem of insufficient PPE. The situation had worsened to the point that many hospitals were directing their staff to start reusing N95 masks which was a risky decision since an N95 is meant to be used once only. In addition to this, wearing a contaminated N95 is futile and is equivalent to wearing no mask at all, a better substitute to wearing a used N95 would be wearing a surgical mask instead.

The lives of healthcare workers were at stake daily for as long as they worked in hospitals. Many nurses had to even leave their jobs because they were scared for their lives and the higher authorities weren’t doing anything to make this situation more favorable for them. Some workers even complained that N95s were being rationed and even though a prolific amount was possessed by the state, they were still not being handed over to the staff. This was another factor that further amplified this crisis and was a dire problem for everyone involved.

Why an N95 must be worn all the time

N95s is not a luxury item but rather a crucial one for all healthcare workers including nurses. It is an absolute necessity that all people working in the healthcare sector wear this essential piece of protective equipment at all times. A hospital is the most dangerous place where everyone could be a possible carrier. So anyone present in that environment should protect themselves while keeping in mind that anyone could be a potential carrier of the notorious COVID-19 here including themselves and take precautionary measures accordingly. However many hospitals are in contrast with this ideology and reported many nurses have been advised by their hospitals to not wear their N95 masks all the time.

Their reasoning for this illogical demand has also been found to be absurd. While some hospitals reasoned that they don’t want to spread fear among the staff and everyone else while some reasoned that it was against their policy and regulations that a worker may wear a mask at all times and outside of patient rooms. This is a problematic approach at a sensitive time like this and has been the reason many nurses had to leave their jobs because they felt unprotected in such an environment. Everyone working in a hospital should be given the liberty to wear a mask all the time and especially at a time like this, hospitals should know better than imposing such imbecile rules and risking the lives of everyone involved.

Conclusion

An N95 is the preferred choice of all healthcare workers when it comes to seeking protection against the novel coronavirus disease. However, due to the shortage of this particular respirator and other PPE hospitals had to take the unprecedented step of allowing the workers to wear used N95 masks. Besides this problem, some hospitals were against nurses wearing an N95 all the time. According to them, a mask should only be worn when a nurse is inside a patient room, and wearing it outside of it is unnecessary and will only spread fear among the masses. This presumption is false as an N95 should be worn at all times by all healthcare workers to ensure their safety.

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