'We're really improvising here': Mask shortages force clinician workarounds

Nurses and physicians nationwide are turning to creative workarounds to protect themselves from COVID-19 amid dwindling supplies of medical masks and respirators, reports NPR.

Some health systems — like Renton, Wash.-based Providence St. Joseph Health — are making their own masks and face shields to bolster supplies. The system has already provided 500 face shields to two affiliated hospitals in Washington state and is now in the process of sewing its own face masks. 

Other healthcare organizations are trying to make existing masks last as long as possible. Charnai Prefontaine, an Illinois-based intensive care nurse, was asked to reuse a single-use mask for five days, reports The New York Times. Niran Al-Agba, MD, a pediatrician in Washington state, said she's had trouble obtaining additional masks for her practice, since medical suppliers are sold out and local health officials are giving their inventory to front-line providers.

"Someone left two boxes of masks on my doorstep," Dr. Al-Agba told NYT. "I will make them last; I’ll spray each one with alcohol and keep using it until it breaks down. We're really improvising here."

Clinicians are also turning to the public for help. Bobbie Habdas, RN, an ICU nurse at Seattle-based Swedish Medical Center, put out a call for masks on Facebook.

"I never thought that we'd necessarily be doing this," Ms. Habdas told NPR of her post, which helped her obtain more than 100 masks for the hospital. And she is not alone. Many clinicians are campaigning for more supplies from the government and their local communities on social media using the hashtag #GetMePPE.

To read NPR's full article, click here.

To read NYT's full article, click here.

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