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Nurses, Lack of PPE, and Covid-19

Personal protective equipment for healthcare workers
Whispyhistory / CC BY-SA

Look back in history, and you’ll surely find that during every tragedy, war, or disaster, nurses were on the front lines. From Florence Nightingale roaming between rows of beds, filled with wounded soldiers, carrying an oil lamp to light her way, to modern day nurses who travel in dangerous, underdeveloped parts of the world to provide care to those who need it the most, we’ve always been there. Whether we’re fighting disease, famine, un-sanitary conditions, lack of education, or just lack of care, we’ve jumped in and done what needed to be done to care for others. It’s who we are. We are compassionate. We are selfless. We are NURSES!


Today, our world is under attack. Covid-19, also known as the Corona Virus, is attacking our nation and our world. Thousands have been infected and the death toll continues to climb. America’s President has become a “Wartime President” as he is forced to utilize resources usually reserved for a different kind of war, and nurses have become the front-line soldiers in fighting this attack. We are “essential” to the survival of our nation. Our people need us. And sadly, our country and our hospitals are un-prepared to protect us during the fight. While we’ve been thrust into this fight without the proper equipment (and very little warning), it’s more important now than ever for us to remain united in our cause. We need to remember who we are and what our purpose is. We need to stay positive!


The pivotal focus during this fight, is that Covid-19 is our enemy. “Friendly Fire” is a term used to describe when a soldier is under fire from someone on his own side. Sometimes it is a mistaken shot, but more often it is due to misplaced anger. Working without proper PPE has many nurses in a state of panic, and for good reason. We rely on that PPE. It’s what protects us, so we can protect the patient. But, the lack of PPE is not something that hospital systems and other organizations planned. They aren’t putting us at risk on purpose. They simply don’t have it. Whether due to hoarding, or just lack of supply, it just isn’t there to give. While it’s perfectly logical to be angry that we have been plunged into a situation where we are “at war” and now are personally at a higher risk, we need to remember who our enemy really is. We have to stop the Friendly Fire!


While working without our PPE can feel a little bit antiquated, it’s important to take some time to consider what we DO have. We have modern day testing available so we know who has the virus. We have medication and equipment (such as ventilators) with which to treat them. We have rooms in which we can quarantine them. We have regulations that enable us to keep families/friends away in order to limit spread. We have sanitary conditions, cleansing supplies, proper nutrition, and the love and support of family, friends and our entire medical community. We have more in this country than most people in our world. We are really very fortunate.


I am a nurse. Covid-19 is invading our area. I have no PPE. I understand the fear. I don’t want to be responsible for spreading the virus to my patients, or my family any more than anyone else. I too am angry at the lack of supplies. But, every day I must remind myself of where my anger belongs, and remember that my organization is part of my team. While they aren’t able to provide me with the equipment that I would prefer to have, I know they aren’t holding back on purpose. It just isn’t there. I try to think back to the nurses who worked with Florence Nightingale. Those nurses made history! And they did so without PPE, and without proper training. They worked and cared for patients with a lack of resources that I just cannot imagine, and through it all, they brought us the environmental theory that has led to saving millions of lives! What a gift!


While the lack of PPE is scary, take heed, as resources are on their way! Construction companies and dentists are donating their un-used masks, new legislation is allowing companies that usually make masks for other occupations to make medical masks, and with urgent production, hundreds of thousands of masks are on their way to critical areas! This situation is not ideal, but it won’t last forever. Our country, our hospitals, and our government are behind us. They’re working every day to resolve our shortages.


Staying positive is difficult in this challenging time. It’s a hard concept to grasp when seeing patients and knowing that they could be infecting us. It’s terrifying to think that we could be spreading the virus unknowingly to our patients, family, and friends. We are living in an unprecedented time that will surely make history, and it’s just no fun. But, we have to try. We have to remind ourselves and each other that this is nobody’s fault. We must remain calm and cannot become a greater problem than the virus itself, or we will surely cause even greater risk. Let’s do what we know we are capable of! We are nurses! Let’s band together, stand strong, and fight this thing!

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About Tammy McKinney, RN

Tammy McKinney is a Registered Nurse from Pennsylvania. After earning her Business Administration degree, she went on to earn her degree in nursing from Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences. With a background in Infectious Disease Nursing, Agency Nursing, and Hospice Care she enjoys sharing her experiences through her writing.

With years of experience in article creation, copy writing and editing, and marketing, Tammy’s freelance career began long before she became a nurse. She continues her work in these areas with a focus on medical writing in an effort to positively inform and impact the nursing community.

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