The Lasting Effects of COVID on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in Nursing Homes

Jennifer Jakub
Central Supply Manager & Scheduler
Southern Hills killed Nursing & Rehab

Infection prevention and control practices play a crucial role in preventing the spread of infections, including but not limited to the coronavirus. Since the early stages of the pandemic, the CDC and other government officials have observed a global shortage of PPE equipment in healthcare settings including hospitals and long-term facilities. Having sufficient inventory of PPE to be able to provide not only to caregivers but all staff members in nursing homes is critical. Critical in keeping residents safe while we are in their home as well as ensuring staff members and their loved ones at home remain safe and healthy while also following proper guidelines that have been set in place by the CDC.

PPE was nearly impossible to come across during the early months of 2020 as the virus quickly spread across the country.  Supplies and equipment that are a necessary part of proper infection prevention and control practices were not readily available to healthcare providers and extended care facilities. Carrying the responsibility of managing the facilities inventory of medical supplies and equipment, I possess first-hand experience to the barriers created as a result of the pandemic induced global PPE shortage. When placing orders for supplies, it was almost expected to experience delays due to many items being on back order. The increased demand for these necessary supplies and equipment were accompanied by increased prices that were nearly 2-3x the cost prior to the pandemic. Getting “everyday items” such as gloves into the facility quickly became very hard task. With the progression of the pandemic, fortunately we were blessed with gowns, surgical masks, protective face shields, and gloves that provided by the Cuyahoga County Relief Fund. This allowed facilities to establish an inventory of what was considered “emergency PPE”, readily available when faced with shipments being delayed or on back order. This has been a tremendous help and has helped to ensure staff and residents can continue on safely with limited information about the virus.

With the assistance of agency staffing to keep nursing homes afloat amidst the countries staffing crisis, it is extremely important that we have inventory of PPE in the building to be able to provide staff with what is needed to maintain safety for all. While we strive to establish familiarity for our residents, utilizing agency staff comes with introducing new staff members on a shift by shift basis. Imagine yourself walking into a new facility as a caregiver or nurse working for a staffing agency and not receiving proper PPE to begin your assignments. Now, imagine that you are informed you will also be providing care to residents with active Covid-19. Would you feel comfortable beginning your shift, risking your health as well as the health of your loved ones at home? Would you continue to show up daily? Keeping our long-term staff members in proper PPE provides a sense of safety and allows them to continue on with their duties while encompassing some peace of mind. These staff members are reassured that each day when they arrive for work, whether the facility is under outbreak status or not, that they will be provided with the equipment they deserve and need. In present time, agency staffing has been crucial for nursing homes and ensuring safe patient to nurse and STNA ratios, It is our job to ensure agency caregivers and nurses share in the same sense of safety as our own residents and staff, receiving the PPE they need and deserve coming into our facility. Providing this safety to all is key to keeping staff showing up daily.

In a building with resident’s diagnosis’s ranging from just needing some physical therapy to help get stronger after a fall/surgery, to residents with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, its critical to have proper PPE as well as enough PPE to keep these residents safe. Those residents with Alzheimer/Dementia often cannot remember that they should wear a face mask when coming into the halls or to participate in activities nor do they remember to cover a cough or sneeze. Ensuring that we have enough PPE in nursing facilities for staff members, families and residents help to protect those residents that can’t protect themselves as well as ensuring those that can protect themselves with the equipment that they need to do so.

Here at Southern Hills, we have been able to maintain a proper supply of PPE to provide staff members with, proper PPE for each time we have an outbreak in the facility, enough PPE to provide residents with face mask each day and even to provide family members with when they come to visit and may have forgotten to bring theirs. Our number one goal throughout this pandemic as been making sure that we protect our residents as well as our staff members. We are a very close-knit facility and making sure that each and every one of us feels safe and remains healthy is top priority.