Voices from the Frontline: Nurse gets COVID-19 after request for N95 mask was denied

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"Voices From The Frontline" is a series of letters from the frontline medical staff that document their experiences fighting COVID-19 in Indiana. These are first-person accounts that give you transparency into the challenges and successes taking place on the frontline of this pandemic.

We want to hear from the nurses, doctors and other medical professionals who are helping patients battle the coronavirus in central Indiana. If you are on the frontline of the battle, please send your first-person account to frontline@wthr.com. If you prefer to submit a separate tip to our investigative team, please email 13investigates@wthr.com.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Nurses have contacted WTHR to explain the conditions they are facing as they treat an increasing number of patients diagnosed with COVID-19. The message below comes from a nurse who works at a Marion County hospital.

The nurse has requested anonymity, and WTHR is honoring those requests from frontline medical staff to allow them to more candidly share their experiences and perspectives.

I have worked multiple shifts in COVID units. Each being harder and more confusing than the last. I have noticed the lack of regard for nursing staff as opposed to physicians in regards to PPE. We are given the bare minimum PPE to use & reuse over and over while I have seen physicians in PAPRs [powered air-purified respirator masks that protect someone from inhaling airborne contaminants], multiple gowns, and boot covers. Not to mention staff is spraying physicians down with bleach before they doff.

The other night I arrived at work and requested a surgical and N95 mask to use for my shift. I was given a surgical mask and told it needed to be used essentially until it fell apart but was refused a N95 because it wasn’t deemed necessary, even though I had patients who were confirmed positive. I argued but eventually gave up because the PPE coordinator told me multiple times she would not give me N95.

I continued my shift only to be told that we are now not only reusing masks but also gowns. I witnessed multiple other staff members that were going in COVID rooms without the proper PPE and coming out to station no doubt transmitting the disease further. Other staff members quit and went home because of their anxiety or concern for themselves. I continued to push through the shift because I know the patients and my fellow staff members need me.

I had a patient who was COVID+ who I ended up getting exposed to through an aerosol producing procedure. I was furious and tried to address it with multiple people and was more or less told “Yeah that sucks, but get over it and move on.” I was sent home and quarantined after becoming symptomatic and have since tested positive, all from a situation that was preventable had I not had to argue for the proper PPE.