4 Best Practices for Medical Workers During the COVID-19 Outbreak
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the US have surged higher than any other country. In this state of national lockdown, healthcare workers are working day and night to provide high-quality care for patients and flatten the curve of this pandemic.
Though no official data has been released yet on the statistics of infection among providers in the US, an anonymous federal official told the Washington Post last week that they’d received over 60 confirmed reports of COVID-19 among health care professionals.
While there’s plenty of talk about what the general public can do to limit the amount of outbreaks, what are some best practices for medical workers?
Understanding the Problem
Medical workers are already at greater risk for infection than most due to the nature of their occupations, but shortages of supplies like N95 masks and limited test kits nationwide are currently compounding the risk.
Bonnie Castillo, head of the 150,000-member nurses union National Nurses United, reported to the Washington Post that the primary risk is a lack of protective equipment:
“Nurses take risks every day because they’re willing to do that, they’re called to do that, and they want to do that. When you’re being sent out there with one of the most highly contagious viruses without your tools and your weapons and without a coordinated plan, it’s frightening.”
So, what can nurses and other medical workers do to limit their infection rate?
#1 Follow All Safety Measures, All The Time
Healthcare workers must practice proper safety practices to contain the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals and treatment centers. When medical workers are infected in large numbers, medical facilities become short-staffed. The standard of care suffers shortly after, and the virus’s impact is exacerbated.
That’s why, when it comes to medical workers, it’s important to double down on safety measures—both at work and at home.
#2 Sanitation and Distancing
As a healthcare professional, you already know that the most effective way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 is through proper sanitation and social distancing. Safe practices include:
- Using Disposable Equipment When Possible – If single-use equipment (like blood pressure cuffs) is not accessible, clean and disinfect each tool thoroughly before use on another patient.
- Proper Handwashing Technique – Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or more. If these are not available, use an alcohol-based hand-sanitizer.
- Cover Coughs and Sneezes – When coughing or sneezing, cover with a sleeve or tissue. Do not use your hands.
- Avoid Touching Eyes, Nose, or Mouth – Avoid touching the face, especially with unwashed hands, to decrease the chance of transmission.
- Maintain a Distance of 6 Feet – Though social distancing is often not an option for healthcare professionals, stand apart from others whenever possible.
#3 Wear Protective Gear
It is critical to don protective gear, including gloves, masks, and gowns, when you enter a room containing anyone who could possibly be infected with the virus, and discard gear before exiting the room.
In the US, officials report hospitals across the nation are facing critical shortages of protective gear. A CBS article describes nurses wearing swim goggles and Halloween masks to treat patients. A CNN report shows photos of New York hospital workers wearing trash bags as surgical gowns.
Without access to N95 face masks, thousands of healthcare workers are wearing scarves, bandanas or other homemade cloth masks. Though the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has doubted the efficacy of these homemade masks in the past, they now recommend that medical workers wear scarves or bandanas paired with a face shield when no other options are available.
#4 Make Safe Patient Placement Decisions
Place patients according to an assessment of risk and probable routes of transmission.
- Ideally, all exposed patients should be isolated in single rooms. However, if single-room placement is not possible, place them in a cohort of other patients based on assessment of patient risk factors, and symptoms that could easily lead to cross-transmission.
- Limit patient movement outside of their rooms to medically necessary trips.
- Close doors to rooms except during use.
- Ensure that patients are separated by at least 3 feet (1 meter).
If You’ve Been Exposed
If you have had exposure to a patient with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 and start developing symptoms, stay home and report your symptoms to a supervisor or your facility’s health operations.
If COVID-19 testing is available to you, you may return to work after receiving negative results of two nasopharyngeal swab specimens that have been collected at least 24 hours apart, as long as upper respiratory symptoms and fever have gone away.
If COVID-19 testing is not available, you may return to work at least seven days after the appearance of your first symptoms, and 72 hours after fever and respiratory symptoms have ended.
After returning to work, avoid contact with immunocompromised patients until 14 days after the onset of initial symptoms.
Before You’ve Been Exposed
The risks for disease-spread are always higher for medical workers. In the wake of COVID-19, never has that been more apparent. And while sanitation practices are helpful, sometimes the problem is unavoidable. For this reason, there’s insurance.
To protect yourself and your financial security, NOW Insurance offers affordable, simple-to-understand insurance plans for medical workers. This allows you to focus on your job, without worrying about the repercussions of a medical mishap or accident.
Reach out to the experts at NOW Insurance if you’d like to know more about insurance options for medical personnel.
- Center for Disease Control. Transmission Based Precautions. https://www.cdc.gov/
- Center for Disease Control. Healthcare Professional Preparedness Checklist for Transport and Arrival of Patients with Confirmed or Possible COVID-19. https://www.cdc.gov/
- Healthcare Finance. Best Practices Emerging for Protecting Healthcare Workers from Coronavirus. https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/
- Stat News. Covid-19’s Resurgence in Hong Kong Holds a Lesson. https://www.statnews.com/
- Live Science. Can Homemade Masks Protect You from COVID-19? https://livescience.com
- Lippincott Solutions. Calling the Shots: When Healthcare Workers Become Infected with COVID-19. http://lippincottsolutions.lww.com/
- ProPublica. Medical Workers Treating Coronavirus Are Resorting to Homemade Face Masks. https://www.propublica.org/
- Washington Post. Covid-19 Hits Doctors, Nurses, and EMTs, Threatening Health System. https://www.washingtonpost.com/
- CNN. See Doctors React to Photo of Nurses Wearing Trash Bags. www.cnn.com
- CBS News. Supply Shortage Forcing Doctors and Nurses to Wear Halloween Masks, ski goggles to protect themselves. https://www.cbsnews.com/