Statement by WSNA Executive Director Sally Watkins on COVID-19

We are all working together under extraordinary circumstances to deal with this public health crisis in our state.

Nurses are on the frontlines of caring for patients, including those with COVID-19. Nurses feel a tremendous professional and ethical calling to care for every patient, and they are doing just that. We are all working together under extraordinary circumstances to deal with this public health crisis in our state.

At the same time, we need to ensure that nurses and other health care workers are getting the needed protective equipment to do their jobs safely. We continue to hear from WSNA members who say they are not getting the protective equipment and timely information they need. We understand that this is a rapidly evolving situation, but the questions and concerns of frontline caregivers need to be addressed as promptly as possible.

Nurses are confused. Not only do hospitals continue to play catch-up on protocols for handling suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases, but they are hearing conflicting guidance on issues such as necessary Personal Protective Equipment to do their jobs safely. While we believe that N95 respirators provide the best protection for our nurses and other health care workers, many infectious disease experts are now reporting that due to the droplet transmission of COVID-19, surgical masks may be used. We need to ensure adequate supplies of all necessary PPE are available including N95 respirators for aerosolized procedures.

These issues are of concern to our members, and we are continually advocating for the needs of nurses on the frontlines with public health and government officials. We’re working to ensure our members have the most up-to-date information from the CDC, the Department of Health and local public health departments. We have also provided information to the Washington State Hospital Association regarding specific concerns and trust that they are working with their members to ensure proper protocols are followed.

It is very important for the public to know that everyone is working jointly – and very hard – to ensure that the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak is being responded to in the best and most rapid way possible. This is an extraordinary public health emergency and calls for our community to work together.