National Nurses United Expresses Need for More Protection from COVID-19

Jill Murphy, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Thursday, March 19th, 2020
Although many health professionals are on the front lines of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, there is a lack of medical supplies to help combat the virus. Bonnie Castillo, executive director of National Nurses United (NNU), expressed her concerns for the lack of protection, saying that more nurses may become infected by COVID-19 if local, state, and federal agencies do not take action.1
The NNU represents 150,000 registered nurses across the United States, and Castillo said that she hears nurses talk about their lack of sufficient resources “every day” to confront COVID-19.1
"Their heart is aching," Castillo told ABC News. "The anger is increasing because they know that there's no reason for this. They love taking care of crises; that's what they do. But to not have the protections that they need in order to do it is becoming increasingly frustrating."1
Castillo continued to criticize hospitals for not doing enough to prepare for the outbreak, as many nurses who brought their own N95 mask for protection were not allowed to use them. If more nurses become infected, a nurse shortage will be inevitable due to the amount of self-isolation that would begin to occur across the country.1
In addition, Castillo expanded on the lack of coordination between local, state, and federal agencies and hospitals regarding when it is appropriate for patients to go to the hospital for COVID-19.1
"What we're lacking is a comprehensive, cohesive public health response, and that starts with educating the public about when to come into the emergency room and when not to come into the emergency room," Castillo said to ABC News. "That's starting to ramp up some, but instead, what happens is because there is confusion and, actually, in some cases, anxiety and panic, everyone is coming to the emergency room and they could potentially be exposed if there is not adequate screening and isolation of the potential [COVID-19] patients."1
Yesterday, President Donald Trump announced the Defense Production Act in an effort to increase medical supplies, making the availability of personal protective equipment more feasible for all health care professionals who are struggling to find these resources.2
Castillo emphasized the amount of praise she has for nurses fighting the COVID-19 pandemic head-on. “There's a great deal of anxiety that nurses are experiencing right now because they don't have the adequate protections that they need to deliver the care, and they know that they are incurring significant exposure and don't want to bring that home to their families,” Castillo said to ABC News.1

  1. Rivas, Anthony. Head of largest nurses union in US says they ‘don’t have protections they need’ from coronavirus. ABC News. Published March 17, 2020. Accessed March 18, 2020.
  2. Crossley, Kristen. President invokes defense production act to address need for COVID-19 medical supplies. Pharmacy Times. Published March 18, 2020. Accessed March 18, 2020.

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