Well, I knew it was coming. I just really wish it hadn’t. As I predicted, we are back to wearing N95 masks all day in patient care areas in my hospital. Sigh. The main difference this time is that we actually have adequate PPE to protect everyone. Gone are the days of recycling N95 masks, thankfully.
The particular kind of mask we wear to protect everyone from the spread of the new Delta and other potential variants of Covid is a KN95, a non-fit tested N95 mask. Also known as a “duck bill” mask, due to its appearance. I had issues last time wearing these because they kill my nose, especially when doubled with goggles. We now have lighter weight, disposable goggles that help, but it still hurts. It’s been 6 days, and I’ve already got a bruise on the bridge of my nose. The straps are tight, and will often cause a headache. But this is life now.
My alternative? I can wear a fit tested N95 instead. It’s the next level after the KN95. This one is more comfortable in some ways, less in others. I have less room under this mask, since it kind of fits like a suction cup. My problem last time with these is that the corners of my mouth actually broke down, cracked, and bled from the deep wounds created over time. With little relief, I kind of had to put up with it. Eating became a chore. It simply hurt to do so. The marks from the straps of these last for hours.
But, here we are. I’m certainly not going to avoid wearing these since my risk of exposure to the virus is fairly high, even when I’m not on a Covid unit. For now, most of my work has been with patients without active cases of Covid, but you never know if or when the next outbreak will strike. This is our best protection.
Since goggles aren’t going anywhere either, and because Covid can infect you through your eyes, I finally broke down and ordered a pair of my own with flexible temple bars and built in bifocal readers. It’s been challenging doubling up goggles and reading glasses!
I’m just sending this out into the world so that those who don’t work in the healthcare environment can realize just how annoying the things we do to protect our patients and each other can be, even if you aren’t on a Covid unit. These measures go way beyond what is traditional in healthcare. I truly don’t blame colleagues who have left the hospital setting. It’s just tough. Really tough. Because on top of the daily personal struggles of doing my job with extra PPE, even in non-Covid areas, we continue to deal with patients who don’t think masks work and believe in conspiracy theories. And then we go into the real world, and it’s a struggle not to confront every senseless person you encounter. It’s wild.
However, I will keep doing all the things to protect myself and others. I love my job. I love my patients. And I will be there for you, even if you don’t trust science and end up with Covid. I just might see you in inpatient rehab to help you get your life back.
In other news, the Pfizer vaccine has been approved by the FDA. I hope that people on the fence about getting the vaccine will reconsider. I’m looking forward to getting a booster dose of this next month, as I have lost count of my friends and colleagues who have fallen ill with Covid who are fully vaccinated. I’m staying masked in public, indoor spaces, and will continue to do so even after the booster. It’s the right thing to do.
Currently in the state of Virginia, we have a 9.9% positivity rate. My hospital is out of Covid beds. Our ICU is also full. It’s like we are back to square one.
Your healthcare providers are so over this virus. Please, please, please, do what you can to keep you, your family, and your neighbors safe. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.