My hospital's new PPE policy!

Nurses General Nursing


Many of my colleagues and I are a bit disturbed by this, and I am looking opinions/advice.

Paraphrasing the official fliers that are making their rounds, we are required to wear gown, gloves, masks, and eye protection for any suspected/confirmed H1N1 cases. The policy states that gowns and gloves are both single use items and should be thrown away after one use. The big change is that we are being "encouraged" to reuse masks - not just N95 respirators (which I can kinda understand) - but surgical masks as well until they "become wet or soiled." And while they "cannot hang on any hook, fixture, or door handle" they can "be carried in uniform pockets when not in use."

Now granted, I am still a noob of a nurse, but this goes against every bit of training related to PPE I remember.

Not only are they encouraging reusing masks, our access to supplies of them is being severly limited. My floor has unoficially been designated the "Flu Floor," 18 of our 34 patients where suspected/confirmed H1N1 last night (not to mention our plain old MRSA/VRE/etc patients). Coming onto the floor, we were told that floor stocks of masks were almost out (which proved accurate). It took 2 staff nurses, a back-up charge RN and the Clinical Coordinator to wrestle an a box and a half of various masks from central supply, because "masks are being very tightly controlled." We ended up sending out staff throughout the night on scrounging missions to dig up more to make it through the shift and give the oncoming day people some wiggle room.

Now granted, there could be some sort of mask shortage I am unaware of. But honesly, the situation is getting flat out disturbing. Especially since everything seems to be set policy. Is anyone else experiencing anything like this? Do my collegues and I have any avenue to express our concerns (the "J" acronym has been mentioned)? Should we start a fund to buy our own supplies? Or should we just take a collective chill pill and get over it?

morte, LPN, LVN

7,015 Posts

it would seem to go against all logic.....would like to hear from some ID nurses

Sadly I have no advice.

But I am appalled! I'm pretty sure this is all to save a few bucks.

Everyone here is awesome, so I'm sure you'll receive some great advice. I just wanted to let you know that I think it's nuts, too!

Naomi Grace RN

Editorial Team / Admin

Rose_Queen, BSN, MSN, RN

6 Articles; 11,532 Posts

Specializes in OR, Nursing Professional Development.

It may not just be to save a few bucks- there are concerns with the swine flu that there may be a national shortage of masks. We ran into this with a TB case in the OR not too long ago- we had to raid several areas to get enough respirators with hoods (OR staff aren't fit tested for the N95 masks).

OC_An Khe

1,018 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care,Recovery, ED.

To start with a "chill pill" is in order. Recent info has shown both types of masks are effective against the flu, but the supply of both is going to be problematic if we have a significant level of h1n1 infections. And the masks aren't cheap, especially the n95 respirators.

Although having my own mask for each patient left in their room would be my preference instead of using my uniform pocket.

Flare, ASN, BSN

5 Articles; 4,431 Posts

Specializes in school nursing, ortho, trauma.

According to my town's OEM (office of emergency management) there IS a shortage of N-95 masks - so i can see that one to an extent... but as far as the regular surgical masks - I'm not aware of any shortage or impending shortage.

Though keep in mind, disposable masks are a relatively new invention. And reuasble cotton masks are a fashion statement in Asia!!

Specializes in ER, Step-Down.

my hospital's new PPE policy is almost IDENTICAL to yours. however, two hours after flyers and whatnot (the bright pink ones lol) went out about reusing the masks, they said to disregard that info. We are ONLY to reuse a mask if we're protecting pt's from our own colds, and if we're going back into the same isolation room right away, never should the masks transfer from one room to another. I don't altogether get the eye protections, never needed it before, now we do, and we're constantly running out of the disposable "glasses" and the masks with the shields attached. We're only supposed to wear the N95 masks when doing a viral culture, nasal washing, or respiratory treatments. Otherwise we are to use the regular surgical masks.

southern rn

235 Posts

If they say you have to wear em, they need to provide em. An anonymous call to OSHA would probaly do wonders ;)


525 Posts

If they say you have to wear em, they need to provide em. An anonymous call to OSHA would probaly do wonders ;)

OSHA can take a very long time to respond...I would say everybody involved needs to call

Tait, MSN, RN

3 Articles; 2,140 Posts

Specializes in Acute Care Cardiac, Education, Prof Practice.

I haven't heard much on the reusing of masks, however I just want to say I am sorry your floor was designated the "flu floor" :(


EMSnut45, BSN, RN, EMT-P

1 Article; 178 Posts

Specializes in ICU and EMS.

The hospital that I work at has been designated the "H1N1 hospital," and the ICU that I work in has been designated the "H1N1 ICU." We have been told to reuse N95 masks as well. Like mentioned above, we have also been told that there is a national shortage of N95 masks. As far as the gown, gloves, and eye protection, the ICU that I work in places everyone on contact isolation-- regardless of what their cultures grow... so that isn't an issue. Sounds like a good idea, though! I wouldn't want those germs on my clothes that I wear in my car and into my house!

I feel your pain about the lack of N95 masks, though. Some of our staff have been fitted for and issued "non disposible" N95 masks. They cost more to purchase, but then you never have to replace them.

I also feel your pain with the abundant H1N1 cases on the floor! I feel like that's all I take care of!!

Good luck with staying healthy! Happy handwashing!

Lacie, BSN, RN

1,037 Posts

Specializes in jack of all trades.

I can tell you if CMS or the DOH walked in and seen people putting mask "in thier pockets" then removing them for reuse the facility would be cited. That in itself is an infection control issue. Once the mask become damp from respiratory secretions also they quickly become ineffective. If they are requiring them to this extent then they need to hit up thier suppliers for more and supply them in adequate supply for staff and visitor use for that matter. I know here in central florida they have stopped all children from visiting hospital patients since they seem to be the highest carriers. I know we use mask in dialysis and in the Burn ICU routinely and it per CMS guidlelines is supposed to be changed between patients to protect the patients due to diminished immune systems. Anything in our pockets is a bit no no for CMS surveyors. Not sure how it would work in this situation though.

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