I find myself at a complete loss. I’ve been an ICU nurse for 7 years, and I love what I do. But, I have been on the fence of what to do from very early on in this COVID19 disaster. My hospital system started rationing PPE very early on, and with each passing day it seems a new and seemingly more ridiculous policy emerges about reusing PPE... and it’s never accompanied with a single shred of evidence that makes me feel like it’s actually safe.
Whenever questions aren’t asked to the random desk jockeys (managers and all non-bedside staff) seem to try to make it a point to bully the asker into submission without ever answering a direct question. I’m sure many nurses out there can relate to their hospital systems using CDC guidelines as their Bible in a very dishonest fashion... the guidelines explicitly state that they were based on a SUPPLY CHAIN ISSUE, and literally had nothing to do with safety. But I’m then supposed to just pretend like I can’t read and go along with whatever asinine policy my hospital system puts into place?
I did make the mistake of voicing my concerns... and, much to my dismay, my desk jockey director had very tow the line commentary in response. Like I get it, I do... I understand that rationed PPE is better than no PPE... but I refuse to act like rationed PPE is adequate or ideal... and I will not pretend like a lack of adequate PPE somehow negates and changes everything we know about infection control— because it just doesn’t.
My hospital system has actually taken the stance that certain people are allowed to refuse COVID19 assignments, which is more generous than most.. and I had considered it, but ultimately decided that I’m much safer taking care of actual COVID19 patients where I’m allowed to have an N95, as opposed to unknowingly being exposed. And that went fine for about a month, until I developed symptoms of COVID19 myself. When I called to report my symptoms (low grade temp 99.5-99.9, GI symptoms, and chest tightness) my hospital system was literally not willing to lift a finger for two reasons: 1) my temp wasn’t 100.4, AND 2) there wasn’t a documented exposure (because apparently reusing PPE AND working directly with COVID patients doesn’t count?? Not only would they not test me, but they weren’t even willing to just take me off the schedule for that week based on my symptoms, which I feel is highly inappropriate. So, I’m glad I learned early on that I’m risking my life on a Monday for a hospital system that will do absolutely nothing to protect me when I get sick on a Thursday.
I was able to be tested by a location only testing first responders, thankfully. And, unlike my hospital system, they felt I 1) should be tested and 2) should self-quarantine at home until I received results. Twelve days later I did receive my results, and it was negative. But considering I have had a low grade temp for two weeks, continue to have GI symptoms, and have now had a cough for about 8 days, I’m not convinced. I’m still self-quarantining, and I did locate a place to do antibody testing for me. When I showed up they didn’t have any butterfly needles, and after three sticks they weren’t able to draw blood— so I now have to wait for appropriate supplies.
While I did feel safer in a COVID19 unit where at least everyone is being careful because we know what we are dealing with... what I was shocked by, was that nurses are literally the only ones really being put at risk I’m the ICU. The doctors and RTs aren’t even routinely entering the patient rooms to do their own assessments, and the nurses are doing all of the RT’s treatments... and again, I feel like I’m the only one who is asking WHY is this being allowed?
I’m tentatively registered for NP school starting in May, but I seriously find myself questioning the wisdom of doing that at this point. Will I reach the point in my program where I am at a standstill due to clinical placement issues?? And, based on what I’m experiencing now, I’m not sure I even want to continue being a nurse. What do y’all think?