Our First Line of Defense

Note: the content below is the opinion of the creator or signed authors.

By Linda Hamilton, RN, BSN

Nurses always respond during disasters, war, and now a pandemic. Unfortunately, while this pandemic has become a political football, as nurses, we know this virus is no game. Our most vulnerable and even those with no risk factors are losing their lives every day. Our hospitals are at capacity, and nurse staffing makes it impossible to provide care in many areas of our state. Many patients are told they have to get care hundreds of miles from their homes.

Now that the election is over and the virus is still raging, we must educate and enforce proven strategies we use in our workplaces and in our communities to stop the spread of this virus. It’s our first line of defense.  The easiest, most effective way to beat this pandemic. We should be using every opportunity we encounter to educate and demand our patients and our community use masks correctly, wash their hands, and practice safe social distancing.

Like many of you, I have pondered how to handle situations in public places. It seems hard to find the right words while being respectful and nonconfrontational.

The hardest is when friends and family do not understand why you will not attend a party or other large group activities such as dinners, weddings, and funerals. I have a responsibility to them to do all I can to limit the spread of this disease. I use the opportunity to explain the circle of infection in layman’s terms and how we can stop it.

Minnesota businesses also have a responsibility to ensure all employees and service workers comply with the guidelines for masks, hand washing, and safe social distancing. We all know some do not. I have tried several strategies to ‘help’ them comply. You will no doubt have other ideas, and I hope you can share them in the comments below.

First and foremost, when I see employees wearing masks and using sanitizer correctly, I thank them loudly (not shouting just so those close can hear). If I see the manager, I compliment them on keeping the facility as safe as possible.

When I encounter staff who are not wearing a mask or wearing it below their nose, I ask the employee quietly to please put on their mask on correctly to protect themselves and me. I thank them if they do. If they say no or do not respond, I ask them to please call their manager. If they don’t, I will call the store using my cell phone and ask for a manager to come down immediately. I do not go back to that store.

If you have a major concern about a violation, you can contact local law enforcement, call the state hotline at 651-793-3746, or email sahviolations@state.mn.us.

We must remember nurses are the most trusted profession. We must use that trust to maintain public health measures to control this disease. That’s what nurses do.

You’re welcome to share your ideas in the comments below to help make a difference and create a safe environment for all.

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