Yesterday (March 12) the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

While Canada currently has 103 confirmed cases and one death – and as of 2:00 p.m. March 12, Newfoundland and Labrador has no cases – almost 125,000 people have been infected with the virus worldwide.

As registered nurses and nurse practitioners, we are neither nervous nor afraid – as a profession, we are unwavering in our commitment to care for our patients. Every day we care for those that are acutely ill and we are no strangers to caring for patients with all types of infectious diseases – it’s what we do.

What we are concerned about is our readiness to care for those who are infected and may require hospitalization.

As the first line of contact for patients and as the largest group of direct care providers in the system, we know that registered nurses and nurse practitioners are essential to caring for COVID-19 patients.

We will play a critical role in stopping the spread of the virus.

But we can only do this if the appropriate protections, equipment and staffing are in place.

Protecting healthcare professionals so that we can care for our patients is vital.

This is why RNU has joined nursing unions across the country in calling on governments and employers to adopt the precautionary principle.

There is still so much we do not know about COVID-19, but here’s what we do know: without proper protective equipment, frontline healthcare workers can spread the infection to each other and to patients.

We need the protection of these healthcare workers to be a priority.

We are calling on government and employers to make OUR protection THEIR priority.

Here’s what registered nurses and nurse practitioners can do to ensure our readiness:

  • Update your N-95 respirator fit testing and wear an N-95 respirator if you are at risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  • Use additional precautions like droplet, contact and airborne precautions, including gloves, gowns and face shields.
  • You have the right to refuse to work in unsafe situations. Visit myRNU for details.
  • If you do not have the required personal protective equipment or have any other concerns, stop what you’re doing and speak with your manager or supervisor, document the situation and contact RNU and your OH&S representative.
    We know our health system is already running at capacity, so we need to start preparing now to ensure we are ready to care for patients when COVID-19 knocks on our door. Because it will.

Nationally and provincially we still have time to slow the spread of COVID-19 if we act swiftly and decisively now.

RNU will post updates regarding COVID-19 on myRNU. Please check in regularly for updates.

Thank you.

In solidarity

Debbie Forward, RN