An Impossible Choice

Nurses at Montefiore Medical Center Moses Division hold an "urgent community speak out" and press conference in front of the hospital, demanding N95s and other critical personal protective equipment to handle the COVID-19 outbreak, Thursday April 2, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

From an Oakland Healthcare Worker

For those of us working in healthcare, the current pandemic has put us in an impossible situation, having to choose between our safety and serving our patients. Most of us working in healthcare find a strong sense of purpose in what we do. We know this is not easy work, and we are reminded of that fact every day. But having to face this deadly virus without the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is a nightmare.

We have been told a million different versions of the same lie. “There is no need to use PPE unless you are dealing directly with a Covid-19 patient,” or “it is ok to wear a surgical mask even though we don’t know for certain if that is enough protection,” or “you can reuse your N95 with multiple patients.” No matter how they spin it, the reality is that there is not enough PPE and the way that we are currently working in the hospitals is unsafe, not just for us but for our patients.

So, the choice lands on our laps, do we come into work risking our lives and those of our loved ones, or do we risk the lives of our patients by denying them our care? This is an impossible choice that we don’t deserve and neither do our patients. But we don’t have to be forced into this. By standing together and demanding proper PPE from our bosses and the government we can do what we come here to do every day – to take care of our patients and do it safely.