Nurses protest against the lack of personal protection equipment amid the covid-19 pandemic in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on April 21, 2020.

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

The majority of nurses have had to re-use single use PPE and have never been tested for the coronavirus, according to a survey of 23,000 nurses by the largest US nursing union.

87% of respondents said they have had to reuse single-use equipment.

84% said they have never been tested. Many also said their skin or clothing has been exposed while treating virus patients.

PPE shortages have sparked protests from nurses, and some have made makeshift replacements from trash bags and swim goggles.

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87% of US nurses have had  to reuse single-use personal protective equipment when treating coronavirus patients and 84% have never been tested for the virus, according to new survey of 23,000 nurses across the country.

The survey, conducted by National Nurses United — the largest nursing union in the US — represents the period between between 15 April and 10 May.

It also found that 72% of nurses have had their skin or clothing exposed while treating coronavirus patients.

National Nurses United said the results shows that “dangerous health care workplace conditions have become the norm since COVID-19 struck the United States.”

Bonnie Castillo, the organization’s executive director, said: “This new survey shows that nurses are still fighting today for optimal personal protective equipment (PPE), fighting to get tested, and fighting for their own lives, and their patients’ lives.”

The survey also found that 27% of respondents who work with confirmed coronavirus patients said they had been exposed without appropriate PPE and worked again within 14 days.

It also found that 500 nurses had a positive coronavirus test result, and that 500 more nurses were still waiting for their results when they took the survey.

The survey included member and non-member nurses.

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Medical staff across the US have been reporting severe shortages of PPE during the pandemic, and in some cases have used items like trash bags, swim goggles, and gas masks instead of medical-grade items.

Nurses display support for the National Nurses United and California Nurses Association’s demand for personal protective equipment for healthcare workers across the state at UCLA Medical Center Santa Monicon April 13, 2020 in California.

VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

In some cases, nurses have been suspended for refusing to work with coronavirus patients without access to equipment high-grade like N95 masks.

Medical staff across the country have reported having to reuse PPE like N95 masks, even though the US Food and Drug Administration says that N95 respirator masks “should not be shared or reused.”

An N95 mask.

Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

Dr. Frank Gabrin, the first US emergency room doctor to die of the coronavirus, told a friend before his death that he had been using the same mask four days in a row.

Some states have said the shortage has been exacerbated by a lack of nationwide strategy that has left states bidding against each other and driving prices up. 

“Project Airbridge,” a program designed by Jared Kushner to fly personal protective equipment PPE from Asian manufacturers to US hospital suppliers, is also largely coming to an end, even though the shortages persist.

National Nurses United staged a protest outside the White House in April to push for more PPE, and other protests from nurses have taken place across the country.

More than 100 nurses have died of COVID-19 in the US, the union said.

Castillo said: “The richest country in the world will call nurses heroes without even bothering to invest in mass producing N95 respirators and other equipment to keep nurses alive.

“Nurses signed up to care for their patients. They did not sign up to die needlessly on the front lines of a pandemic. Our message to employers and the Trump administration is: Platitudes are empty without protections. For our sake, for the public’s sake — give us PPE.”

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