COVID-19 Issue No. 1: Protecting yourself and your license during this pandemic
This post is not an April Fool's joke....
Because I've represented hundreds of nurses over the past 10 years, I've begun receiving calls and updates from existing, past or potential nurse clients about conditions on the "front lines," and what is going on within their medical facilities. If you have issues you'd like me to address with the Nevada State Board of Nursing, please email us or call us at 702-893-4777. The information that is being relayed to me is alarming, but not surprising. I'm going to try and provide some general advice on what to do during this pandemic as it relates to protecting your license.
The first issue coming up is the restricted use of masks and other personal protection equipment (PPE). There's a massive shortage. Some facilities are only allowing nurses one mask per shift, even when they may be seeing different patients with different infectious diseases. Every nurse I've talked to tells me this is totally against approved nurse practices and what they are trained and told to do in school.
So, what do you do when you're a nurse and you're essentially being asked, in this state of emergency--to breach safety protocols--what are you supposed to do? Here are your options: (1) quit your job; (2) report the facility to the proper authorities; (3) report the problem to your superiors, or (4) continue working under the conditions imposed without saying anything. If you see other options, please let me know at the email address above, or if you see this post on FB, please add your comments.
If you are being told to wear a single mask for your entire shift, and you are being forced to do so by your employer, or, if a patient, family or the facility reports it to the Nevada State Board of Nursing, you face investigation, and the possibility of disciplinary action. Of course, it will depend upon the circumstances. BE SURE TO DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Express written concern to the CN, the DON, HR, etc. Additionally, you should report breaches of nurse practices being forced on you by an employer to the Attorney General's Office should be on your list, and let them handle it with that facility. For Nevada Nurses, here is the link that will take you to the Complaint Form:
Alternatively, you can download this form by simply clicking on this link: Attorney General Complaint Form.
My office contacted the Attorney General's Office (AGO) on March 31, 2020 to report the fact that certain medical facilities were forcing nurses to use one mask during a 12-hour shift. The AGO sounded surprised, and stated that this violates the Governor's orders. They said they would investigate these complaints.
If you do all in your power to make sure that the State is aware of the situation, I think this will go a long way if you ever face discipline before the Board for these violations. If a complaint ever comes along, we can use your documented, good-faith efforts to try and stop this unsafe practice to the greatest extent possible and protect your license. Because these practices are truly unsafe and could lead to the spread of infectious diseases among patients, or nurses becoming infected themselves, if I were you, I'd do everything in my power to try an make sure that these facilities provide the safest possible environments for patients and nurses, in light of all of these unprecedented circumstances.
We may continue to see nurse practices and norms being circumvented or altered that were once unthinkable. This is what can happen during emergency or pandemic situations. For example, nurses who have not completed nursing school are being allowed to practice; licensing requirements in different states are being temporarily waived. We will continue to see such exceptional and unconventional practices happen. But be on guard and protect yourself as best as you can. If you have any questions on what you should do, call us. I am in regular communication with the Nevada State Board of Nursing, and they can provide some answers. How to handle the issue discussed here is one of the issues that I spoke to the Board about, and what I am sharing with you is the result of that communication. Call us at 702-893-4777 if you have any questions or concerns or email us.