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COVID-19 pandemic: Survey shows majority of nurses feel unsafe

Photo: Capuski/iStockphoto

Silver Spring, MD — More than 3 out of 4 nurses say their employer isn’t providing a safe workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic, results of a recent National Nurses United survey indicate – a finding the labor union claims underlines the impact of businesses “reopening too soon.”

NNU, which represents more than 150,000 registered nurses nationwide, in July surveyed more than 21,000 unionized and nonunion nurses in all 50 states and three U.S. territories.

According to the union, nurses are at increased risk of exposure because they’re being required to reuse personal protective equipment, they aren’t being regularly tested for the virus and some facilities lack dedicated units for COVID-19 patients, among other reasons. As a result of these “unsafe practices,” 43% of the nurses said they’re afraid of infecting their loved ones.

Among hospital nurses, 87% reported having to reuse at least one type of single-use PPE, such as an N95 respirator or faceshield. Only 23% of the nurses said they’ve been tested for COVID-19, while 85% said they work in facilities that have restarted elective surgical procedures.

“Nurses and other health care workers must be prioritized for testing,” NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo said in a July 28 press release. “Nurses do not have the access to testing that they need.”

Other findings:

  • 32% of the nurses said their facility doesn’t have a dedicated area or unit for COVID-19 patients.
  • Less than one-third – 31% – said every patient at their facility is screened for COVID-19.
  • 91% have had to reuse a single-use PPE item.
  • 27% of hospital nurses said staffing levels at their facility have gotten worse during the pandemic.
  • Of those who work in hospitals, 36% are afraid of contracting the illness.

“This survey shows that nurses are bearing the brunt of premature relaxing of shelter-in-place orders,” Castillo said. “We are facing a record-breaking number of infections every day across the country. Nurses are willing to be at the bedside caring for COVID-19 patients; their employers should be willing to protect them. Sadly, that’s not the case.”


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Aug. 10, eight states had recorded at least 10,000 cases in the past seven days.

NNU is calling on OHSA to develop an emergency temporary standard for infectious diseases to protect nurses and health care workers from exposure to COVID-19.

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