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Do you think this is safe?

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I work at a LTC. Employees at our facility are required to reuse our masks for about four days. Each day we are expected to place our masks in paper bags and leave them, we get them back the next day. I don’t like that the paper bags are jammed together in a box. I’m worried about the bags and masks contaminating each other. What do you think?

Tait, MSN, RN

Specializes in Acute Care Cardiac, Education, Prof Practice. Has 14 years experience.

We have been doing this for about a month at our facility. Are you talking about N95s or surgical masks? For N95s they are to be used for three days, stored in paper bags in a centralized location (to keep them from being in lockers and floating around the unit counters) and then thrown out. Some of our larger hospitals are investing in UVC cleaning rooms and reusable masks with filters.

For surgical masks you get one for the shift if you work with patients, and one for the work week (five days) for non patient care areas (again stored in a paper bag in a centralized area).

All come with stipulation to replace if they become soiled, wet, or ill fitting.

It is not a perfect situation by any stretch of the imagination, but at this point it is what we are doing to make sure we have gear at all.

We have not at this point had any significant outbreaks among staff and we are metropolitan hospital.

I think it is a bad practice. Anybody with common sense thinks it is a bad practice.

Just now, hherrn said:

I think it is a bad practice. Anybody with common sense thinks it is a bad practice.

And yet, many places continue to do it.

Also, what if the box falls over and the masks fall out? I don’t like the idea of leaving someone else in charge of what concerns my personal sense of safety. I’m not comfortable with this. They are also asking us to hang a gown in each Resident’s room. Anyone entering the room must share the gown. This makes no sense.

1 hour ago, Queen Tiye said:

Also, what if the box falls over and the masks fall out?

Advocate that they store the box on a shelf above the hopper.

Falling box is the least of your problems.

What about the fact that the entire inside of the bag is contaminated once the contaminated PPE is placed within? And everyone around you acts like it's perfectly normal to expect you would put this back onto your face?

NRSKarenRN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion. Has 44 years experience.

Facilities are in a pandemic disaster mode unable to secure usual PPE supplies so maximizing what PPE supplies currently available. No one thinks this is ideal.

Nurses survived 1918 Influenza outbreak without N95 masks, PAPR hoods etc. using cloth masks, cotton cover gowns, hand hygiene with soap and water, visiting nurses disposed of soiled items / cloth mask in newspaper made paper bags --- same things nurses are asked to do today.

Interesting readings from University of Pennsylvania Barbara Bates Center for History of Nursing:

Calm, Cool, Courageous: Nursing and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

https://www.nursing.upenn.edu/history/publications/calm-cool-courageous/

Visiting Nurse Society of Philadelphia Scrapbook:

https://www.nursing.upenn.edu/live/galleries/116-visiting-nurse-society-of-philadelphia-scrapbook

They are at least partially having a PPE fiasco because they believe in just-in-time and if/when that can't work they throw up their hands and demand that others not hold them accountable.

lifelearningrn, BSN, RN

Specializes in School Nursing. Has 7 years experience.

17 hours ago, NRSKarenRN said:

Facilities are in a pandemic disaster mode unable to secure usual PPE supplies so maximizing what PPE supplies currently available. No one thinks this is ideal.

Nurses survived 1918 Influenza outbreak without N95 masks, PAPR hoods etc. using cloth masks, cotton cover gowns, hand hygiene with soap and water, visiting nurses disposed of soiled items / cloth mask in newspaper made paper bags --- same things nurses are asked to do today.

Not all nurses survived the 1918 pandemic. I think it is absolutely absurd that over a CENTURY later, nurses are no better protected against a pandemic. We have the technology. We have the hindsight. It's really unacceptable and inexcusable. JMHO

CaffeinePOQ4HPRN, BSN, MSN, LPN, RN

Has 10 years experience.

On 5/27/2020 at 4:57 PM, hherrn said:

I think it is a bad practice. Anybody with common sense thinks it is a bad practice.

It's definitely p** poor practice! Especially if others have access to it. Honestly, I'm really trying to find the IPAC logic/rationale for this... and I'm coming up short! I'm currently scouring the Lancet for research on the reusability of facemasks. I haven't found anything about storage recommendations, but everything I've read so far echos something along the lines of:

"Despite being considered unsafe, reusing surgical masks is common when resources are stretched. In the face of a global challenge [4], we urge infection control experts to proactively formulate rational guidelines and devise methods for safe handling and storage of face masks for reuse, should it becomes necessary."

source: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/eclinm/article/PIIS2589-5370(20)30100-0/fulltext

So, there you go🤦‍♀️. We should have never been put in this position; and when it was identified as a problem it should have been addressed. Do you have a locker at work? It's not ideal, and you shouldn't have to do this, but perhaps you can store your mask in a clean container in your locker for the time being? Speak to your colleagues. Could you all appeal for an alternative solution?

Edited by CaffeinePOQ4HPRN
typos

Tait, MSN, RN

Specializes in Acute Care Cardiac, Education, Prof Practice. Has 14 years experience.

We went with paper bags, my mom's hospital went with plastic containers. Our rationale for paper I believe was due to the evidence at the time that COVID fell apart faster on paper than plastic.

The CDC recommends reusing and storing masks in paper bags, but my facility is storing them in a box. I just felt stressed because I refused to participate and no other nurse spoke up to say that it is an unsafe practice.

MeganMN

Specializes in Emergency Room. Has 15 years experience.

Could you offer to be a part of a better solution? Maybe a pegboard or 3M command hook for each employee where their own bag is stored by itself? I am not super excited about it, but our facility is requiring a twelve hour shift for each N95, then letting it "rest" for five days before using it again. So if I work three days in a row, I get three masks, and those three masks get rotated on a five day cycle. We each have our names on our masks and get a new one after each mask has had a total of 5 uses. My three masks will then last me for 6 weeks and I start over with three more. But there is no shortage, right?