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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

San Diego Nurse Talks About Safety Equipment Shortages, Stress On Health Workers

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Speaker 1: 00:00 They're the tip of the spear when it comes to healthcare. Nurses are working harder than ever to help the sick, but they're sounding the alarm about not having enough of the equipment. They need equipment like gowns, masks and other items that keep them safe while they're treating people. That's taking a toll on their physical and mental health. Joining us to talk more about this is Elizabeth Jones. She's a nurse working at UCS D medical center in LA Hoya. However, she speaking on behalf of the California nurses association. Elizabeth, thanks for joining us.

Speaker 2: 00:32 Thank you for having me and thanks for doing this. I really appreciate it. And I know all the nurses do as do the physicians and anybody really working on the front lines and at the bedside and healthcare.

Speaker 1: 00:43 We're glad to do it and appreciate all that you do. You know, we're hearing a lot about how desperate things are becoming in places like New York at this moment. How's the healthcare industry in the San Diego area dealing with this crisis?

Speaker 2: 00:57 It's pretty bad. Um, math and a lie, it's, we don't have enough gowns. We don't have enough math. We're being told to reuse masks and hospitals. Um, we are pre-screening, uh, all patients that are coming in for clinic visits and even doing drive by, uh, covert testing if you meet the criteria. So we're having patients call in first and if they meet the criteria, somebody will come out to the car, assess them, swab them, if they meet the criteria, send them home and call them back with the results. Um, and then instructions of what to do. I've never seen anything like this in 13 years, almost 14 years of being a nurse. Um, and it's, it's just strange.

Speaker 1: 01:47 Yeah. And I, and I know being a nurse can be a stressful job and in the best of times, how are you and your fellow nurses coping?

Speaker 2: 01:55 We're all stressed. Um, we're stressed by, I mean, we don't just live at the hospital, that doesn't exist. We go home, we have families, we have friends, we have other obligations. And we're torn between our sense of duty and our own personal safety and that of our loved ones. So, I mean my phone has gone off nonstop with friends and family. Reaching out, making sure that I'm safe and thanking me and the rest of my community is the nurses and physicians for what we do and being out there. Um, I will say that this is a time that I've never been more proud to be a nurse, um, because it is often a thankless job, but we know what we do and I'm really proud of what we do and it's just another day in battle for us. The offer as it is to say, but it's another day in battle. This feels like a war, but this is most days it is a nurse can be a battle.

Speaker 1: 03:01 Hmm. You know, are you getting the support you need from hospitals? Both with equipment and with psychological support?

Speaker 2: 03:09 Um, not really. There is a shortage, um, of everything that we need. I know a lot of us have facilities, mine included, are not following Cal OSHA's recommendations of keeping these patients on airborne precautions, which means putting them in a negative pressure room. So anything, any air that's in the room, you get filtered out through a HEPA filter. And then really since the air, cause the solution to pollution is solution. Um, and then the employers that go into the room would wear, uh, [inaudible] a respirator mask as well as, you know, the plastic gowns that was, do they get hand hygiene? And I wear, um, you don't have enough of it. And we've been told, OSHA says that's the standard. Even the CDC said that should be the standard, but you're gonna get by with droplet. It's just just the gown and a surgical mask with eyewear. Um, the truth of the matter is if you don't know enough and of how this is really spread and we would rather be safe.

Speaker 1: 04:14 Yeah. You were talking to our producer about what you see as the reality that this crisis is revealing when it comes to how healthcare works in the United States. What did you mean by that?

Speaker 2: 04:26 Okay. The United States, and it's more evidence than ever this past week is reactionary. It's not proactive. It's not preventative. It's, it's a treat model. And everyone knows the older dies. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And that's kind of sad. I mean it's so evident now. We've known about this virus is December in China and I don't know why anybody in the rest of the world is aware travel works. Not that it wasn't going to get spread around.

Speaker 1: 05:02 No. Even if you get all the protective equipment you need, some nurses and other healthcare workers will still get sick. Are there plans in place to deal with a situation where we have a lack of nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals while more and more sick people show up at hospitals?

Speaker 2: 05:19 My facility has put any uh, labor pool. Um, I know they've talked about canceling, um, non-emergent surgeries. So elective things, things that can be put on the back burner for a few weeks. Um, I've heard rumors of, you know, cause every state you need to be licensed. Um, we all take the same boards that you have to be licensed in each state nursing. You can do reciprocity. I have a friend who is a California nurse that is currently living in Chicago. And California is held her license. I'm essentially hostage because of all of this for the last four months. Um, so she can't work in Chicago but wants to come back to California to, to work. Um, so I've heard of them lifting that. So if you're licensed you can pretty much work anywhere in the country. I've heard that. I can't confirm whether or not that's true. If that isn't the case, it should be as long as your licenses up to be and you're in good standing, you should be able to work in places that need help.

Speaker 1: 06:28 How are you and your family doing right now?

Speaker 2: 06:31 Um, so my sister works for herself. Um, she's kind of hunkered down in place and she works from home, so that's great. Um, may the rest of my family is on the East coast than in England personally. My grandmother died in England about two weeks ago and my father flew over for her funeral and is still there. Um, I don't know if he'll be able to get back or not. My younger brother and sister, they're still in high school. Their schools had been canceled until mid April.

Speaker 1: 07:05 I've been speaking with Elizabeth Jones, a nurse who works at UC SD medical center and the Hoya. However, again, she is speaking on behalf of the California nurses association. Elizabeth, thanks for joining us and thanks for sharing your experience.

Being a nurse is a stressful job in the best of times. But the profession of nursing is even more difficult in the age of coronavirus. A local nurse talks about how they're coping and how the general public can help.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.