- Only a quarter of the 21,200 nurses recently surveyed by National Nurses United, the country's largest nurses union, think their employers are providing a safe workplace during the pandemic.
- Concerns over personal protective equipment persist, with 87% of nurses reporting they re-used at least one type of single-use PPE, such as an N95 respirator or a face shield. Though Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidance now allow for such methods in certain circumstances, the union said the process is not safe, effective or scientifically proven.
- Staffing has gotten much worse recently, 27% of nurses reported. Thirty-percent said they were assigned to a clinical care area where they were expected to care for patients that require new skills or competencies and 42% of those nurses said their reassignment hindered their ability to do their job safely.
Nurses and other healthcare workers across the country staged protests and went on strike in recent months, sounding the alarm on what they deem as unsafe working conditions while fighting a highly infectious virus.
The health systems they work for, though, are also struggling, as widespread delays for non-COVID-related care continue depressing volumes and revenues. Many have instituted cost reduction measures, including furloughs or layoffs, while it remains to be seen if, and when, they'll return to pre-pandemic volumes.
The NNU survey results were gathered from more than 21,000 union and non-union nurses in all 50 states throughout this month.
Beyond inadequate PPE and staffing concerns, nurses also fear inadequate isolation of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients is putting other patients and staff at greater risk of infection, according to survey responses.
Ideally, patients with suspected COVID-19 cases and confirmed positives should be isolating in negative pressure rooms to avoid cross infection. But only 15% of nurses reported that COVID-19 patients were always placed in a negative pressure room, and 32% said their facility does not have a dedicated COVID-19 area or unit.
Nurses also said they've had trouble getting tested for the virus to know whether they've been exposed. Months into the pandemic, just 23% of nurses surveyed said they'd been tested for COVID-19, and only 31% said their systems screen every patient.
According to an NNU release, the union wants the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to pass an emergency temporary standard for infectious diseases that would require more protections for healthcare workers.
It's also still pushing for President Donald Trump to use the Defense Production Act to order the mass production of PPE, as it has since the start of the pandemic.
Both of those measures are featured in House Democrats', $3 trillion relief legislation, which the union supports. Senate Republicans countered it Monday with their own relief bill, which NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo said in a statement doesn't include those provisions or others "that would protect nurses and our patients."