Delaware nurse walks away from job over alleged lack of protections

A critical care nurse at ChristianaCare's Wilmington (Del.) Hospital walked off the job April 13, saying her employer isn't doing enough to protect healthcare workers and that she was banned from wearing an N95 respirator to treat COVID-19 patients, according to WDEL.

Jennifer Jeffries, 30, told the radio station clinicians can no longer wear N95 respirators when treating patients with high-flow nasal cannula, and that she only wears a surgical mask when dealing with most COVID-19 patients.

ChristianaCare initially required nurses to wear N95 respirators and suit up when treating confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to Ms. Jeffries.

The CDC recommends that healthcare professionals use surgical N95 respirators only if they need protection from both airborne and fluid hazards. When there is a shortage, the CDC said only healthcare professionals "who are working in a sterile field or who may be exposed to high-velocity splashes, sprays or splatters of blood or body fluids" should be provided those respirators. Other healthcare professionals can use standard N95 respirators, the CDC said, recommending a face shield be worn over a standard N95 if surgical N95s aren't available and exposure to splatters of bodily fluids is likely.

Ms. Jeffries has been a nurse for four years and treated ChristianaCare's first COVID-19 patient.

She told WDEL: "It was written on our huddle board in the morning that airborne precautions are no longer needed for high-flow nasal cannula, which is very concerning for me, because it is a very high amount of oxygen that's being forced into the nostrils. We don't know enough … we're in the middle of a pandemic. We don't have time to be testing new things, and I feel like we're almost lab rats."

ChristianaCare said it is following evidence-based best practices recommended by the CDC and supported by state public health officials for safe use of personal protective equipment  under current conditions. 

"Our caregivers are provided the correct type of masks for all clinical encounters in accordance with that guidance. Evidence-based decision-making is the best way to protect and care for our caregivers. It is also the best way for us to use our resources wisely and effectively to ensure that we have enough supplies now and into the future," a statement from the health system said.

ChristianaCare also said it has adequate protective supplies currently, but continues to monitor current supplies and prioritize conservation, and has expanded educational programs to ensure workers are trained and supported in using the proper evidence-based protocols for protecting themselves from the new coronavirus. 

Ms. Jeffries began working at Wilmington Hospital's ICU in November and has expressed she doesn't feel safe and protected. She told WDEL she was offered reassignment to a different unit, but she was worried about potentially unsafe conditions if the hospital reaches capacity. She eventually resigned over her concerns and continues to work at the New Jersey hospital where she was working in addition to Wilmington Hospital.

Read the full report here

 

More articles on workforce:
How Memorial Hermann is ensuring its 29,000 employees are healthy and safe
Staffing firm lured nurses to unsafe work in New York, $500K lawsuit claims
COVID-19 & healthcare professionals: What the latest CDC data shows 

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