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A St. Louis-Area Nurse’s Push For N95 Masks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that health care workers interacting with a coronavirus patient wear a heavy-duty mask called an N95 respirator.
michael_swan | Flickr

At the St. Louis hospital where Emma Crocker works as a registered nurse, only employees working in areas with confirmed COVID-19 patients, like the emergency room and the ICU, were given N95 masks from the hospital’s collection. 

“The CDC, when they first came out, recommended the use of N95 masks for every health care worker, but we know that there’s a shortage — there’s a limited supply, which is actually what’s hindering us the most right now,” said Crocker.

N95 masks are in short supply across the country, and the hospital said they were conserving their supply.

“We did just get a shipment in a couple days ago of more N95 masks, which is wonderful,” said Crocker, “but the concern is, if we do see that surge at the beginning of May [or] the end of April, do we have enough of a supply to go around to last us until then?”

Crocker’s concern is that she and her colleagues are being exposed to the virus by unknowingly infected patients coming into their outpatient oncology clinic, which is located within the hospital.

“I do wish we had more supply so that everyone could be protected from the risk,” she said.

“Which is why I think it is important for the public to know that if they do have N95s lying around, to call and reach out to see if that’s something that can be donated.”

This week, health care workers from across the country have lamented the lack of appropriate personal protective equipment. Some have been terminated, and some have quit their jobs due to concerns of risk to their own families. 

“I totally understand where they are coming from; it’s a hard choice,” said Crocker. “I had to discuss it with my own family. I think the biggest thing I want everyone to understand is: We love what we do as nurses. This is our calling. It is who we are, and there’s a fine line between making sure that you and your family are safe and keeping on doing the thing you love the most.” 

“And that’s a very hard decision,” she added. 

Hear Crocker’s conversation with Sarah Fenske on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air:

Crocker is a registered nurse with a doctorate of nursing practice with a focus in population health, and she’s also the vice president on the board for Missouri Healthcare for All.
St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.
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