yenurse Leslie McKarney got used to the night ritual of taking a 16-hour shift, skipping lunch, throwing all clothes in the laundry and taking a shower as soon as they pass the door to avoid infecting their children. She even got used to categorizing Covid patients who often arrive at the emergency room and run out of breath and have difficulty explaining their symptoms.
However, despite trauma and fatigue over the past eight months, she was shocked when North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum tested positive for the coronavirus last week, but said medical workers who showed no symptoms could still report work. Consistent with the CDC guidelines for mitigating staff shortages, this order allows only asymptomatic health care workers who have tested positive to work in the Covid department and to treat patients already infected with the virus.
However, many people believe that this idea is putting workers themselves and their colleagues at risk. North Dakota comes from facing one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks and wrestling with a shortage of medical staff.
“I’m honestly worried about someone dying,” said McKarney, Bismarck’s emergency room nurse.
According to data from the Covid Tracking Project, over 9,400 North Dakotan residents tested positive for Covid-19 last week alone. About 1 in 12 North Dakota residents are infected with the virus. Nearly 1 in 1,000 people died. In early November, the North Dakota Department of Health reported that there were only 12 open ICU beds across the state.
McKarney said Burgum’s orders went against everything he learned as a nurse.
“It will be very scary when hospital managers start to force Covid training staff to go to work. We are trained to do no harm, and asking Covid positive asymptomatic nurses to return to work puts patients at risk. You are putting your fellow employees at risk.”
Nine months after the pandemic began, it is clear that healthcare workers are already at increased risk. Lost on the Frontline, a joint effort between Guardian and Kaiser Health News, is investigating the deaths of 1,375 healthcare workers who appear to have died of Covid-19 since the pandemic began. Almost 1/3 Among them, the medical workers were nurses.
McKarney described the long shifts in the emergency room, where the other wards in the hospital were incapable of admitting patients, so they started receiving patients overnight. Nurses choose to work extra shifts for their ill co-workers and treat several critically ill patients at once.
This is a scene that is taking place in hospitals across the country as the coronavirus spreads without weakening. As of November 16, more than 11 million people have been infected with the virus in the United States, and health officials have reported 180,000 new infections per day. And the country is preparing for another milestone. Soon, the death toll from Corona 19 will exceed 250,000.
Medical workers are overwhelmed and exhausted. A recent National Nurses United survey found that more than 70% of hospital nurses fear getting Covid-19 and 80% fear it could infect family members. More than half said they were having trouble sleeping, and 62 said they felt stress and anxiety. Nearly 80% said that disposable PPE such as N95 ventilators should be reused.
The absence of action at the state and federal level has made many healthcare workers feel abandoned. When Governor Burgum ordered an infected but asymptomatic nurse to report to work in the Covid department, North Dakota fulfilled some kind of statewide mask duty despite expert guidance that such measures could significantly reduce the spread of the virus. I didn’t.
Tessa Johnson, a nurse at the Bismarck Nursing Home and president of the North Dakota Nurses Association, issued a statement on Wednesday condemning Burgum’s order for an infected nurse to continue working.
She said the state could have done much more to keep patients from getting infected in the first place. On Thursday, she said, “We asked and asked for a mask power of attorney, and we requested, but that didn’t happen.
On Friday night, Burgum learned about the face and issued a mask power of attorney, ordering them to cover their faces in both indoor and outdoor public areas where physical distancing to individuals may be impossible.
“Doctors and nurses who work heroically on the frontline need our help and need it right now,” he said in a press statement.
But Johnson says there is a disconnect between what healthcare workers experience in North Dakota healthcare facilities and the way the general public perceives the virus. And even before Burgum’s remarks, some of my colleagues felt they had to choose between taking all precautions and a limited amount of time. “One of my best friends and health care workers said to me,’I don’t want to take paid leave, so there is no way to get tested unless I’m very sick.’
Emergency room nurse McKarney said he didn’t have time to deal with the stress of the past few months. She is focused on staying healthy, preparing for what is expected to be a difficult winter, and saving patients. McKarney said, “We are willing to bend over and work as hard as we can physically. “But it’s amazing to ask them to come in as a potential source of infection.”