“What is PPE and Why Do Nurses Need It?”

The CDC came out yesterday stating that if no surgical masks are available, bandanas will be better than nothing. They aren’t loosening their guidelines because the virus isn’t “that” contagious. They are loosening their guidelines because there isn’t enough PPE.

What is PPE? PPE stands for personal protective equipment.

This nurse is wearing the yellow gown, an eye shield and an N95 mask and likely gloves. In certain cases, only a gown and gloves are needed. An N95 mask is needed to protect us against airborne illnesses or if someone has an uncovered cough or sneeze. Sometimes a plain surgical mask is enough. These are all examples of personal protective equipment.

PPE is so important for healthcare providers to protect themselves and stay safe. PPE is non-negotiable. Without it, half of the workforce will be out with illness, more wounded than we already are. So we will have half the soldiers and no weapons in our war against COVID 19.

Pre COVID 19, this nurse would be required to “don” all PPE prior to entering a patient’s room for any reason if they have influenza, lice, bed bugs, measles, MRSA, VRE, C-diff etc.

Even if the nurse needed to check a blood pressure, she would get all new PPE to enter the room get the blood pressure, and then throw it all away. If the patient needed a glass of water, the nurse would don all PPE, give the patient the glass of water, and then throw it all away.

A nurse could very easily go through a dozen full sets of PPE in one shift. That doesn’t account for respiratory therapy, lab, visitors, CNAs, doctors, or other nurses.

There were certain instances where even if a person had a HISTORY of MRSA, not even an active MRSA (superbug) infection, staff would still be required to wear full PPE.

Now with COVID 19, much more contagious, much more serious, nurses are being asked to re use PPE. Nurses get one N95 mask (in scarce supply if you can even find one they went from 50 cents/mask to $50/mask), one eye-shield to clean and reuse, one gown to properly store and re wear, if our gloves are soiled we should wash them in the patient’s room and continue if we can without changing them (only changing between patients).

If we don’t have PPE to protect us from coronavirus, we don’t have PPE to protect us from patients with body lice or measles or whatever else comes through our ER doors.

The #getmePPE has been trending on twitter for a few days. Local hospitals have turned to the public asking dry wallers and feed mills to donate their unused N95 masks to local hospitals and facilities. Two major hospitals, just 2 hours South of here have turned to the public and asked them to sew surgical masks for healthcare staff. Here is the link to the original article:


For major medical authorities to put their tail between their legs and publicly profess their need for help and their sheer lack of unpreparedness is huge. They. Need. Help.

My friend used to work in the ER at one of the hospitals and was checking in with a former coworker of theirs who are now rationed down to one mask and once it is gone, come Monday there are no more supplies.

If we don’t have face masks, we don’t have face masks to hand out to patients who have COVID 19. If patients who have COVID 19 cannot wear a face mask, their risk of spreading the disease grow exponentially.

Initially, the CDC recommended that healthcare providers who were exposed to a patient with the virus without any PPE, they were to be EXCLUDED from work for a FULL 14 days. That’s what we are coming to. Check out this chart here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-risk-assesment-hcp.html

So my mom took to the sewing machine and this is what she whipped up in just a matter of hours.

As you can see these go OVER our N95 masks.

These fabric masks can go over our N95 masks to make them reusable. Previously, if our masks were splashed with bodily fluid, blood etc, we would have to throw them away. Now we can change out, wash, and reuse the fabric masks and preserve the N95 masks which is really our only true protection on the front lines of COVID19.With the critical shortage, these may eventually be our ONLY protection against COVID19.

I wish people could understand that this is an absolute last resort and everything we know about PPE (person protective equipment) is completely and totally irrelevant at this point. This is rock bottom.

You can read more about the creation of the masks on my mom’s blog – please direct all questions regarding the pattern or mask to either my mom’s blog or your local hospital if you’d like to make some.

Here is a link to mom’s blog posts about the masks:


Thanks for reading guys. I’ll keep you posted as the pandemic spreads. If you do nothing else to help, please just stay home.



  1. Joy in Nw Iowa
    March 21, 2020 / 12:00 pm

    Love you! Which mask do you prefer?

  2. Susan the Farm Quilter
    March 21, 2020 / 8:51 pm

    Trying really hard to stay home because I have a cough from having a reaction to the flu shot I got in January. Everyone looks at me like I am Typhoid Mary when I have to cough when I’m out and about.

  3. Logan Smith DNP
    March 23, 2020 / 1:37 pm

    I’m glad you are working to find solutions, we need smart thinkers in nursing….only problem is that the clinical research and the W.H.O. find NO benefit in cloth masks. In fact, the moisture they create could actually deteriorate the medical masks and N95’s quicker. You are actually putting yourself and other nurses in harms way by being anxious and doing what you think is right before knowing it is right. Look at the research, ask a BSN who took a research class or MSN who knows research to search for you. Or if you have access to a medical library get them to look for proof before changing your practice. Maybe you should take a break from teaching, it doesn’t sound like a good fit for you or your family. Make smart decisions, not hurried ones based on your anxiety. Look to your occ health department for guidance if you have one. They usually know all the rules and laws. Maybe think and learn before you post, you can do that in all the spare time you have! And create educated and informative posts which are very much needed in nursing during this crisis. Rural health will suffer greatly if nursing makes rash decisions that are not supported by guidelines. Rogue nurses that put themselves at risk can’t care for patients when they get sick. So follow the guidelines and use that BSN you got there.

    • thepinkshoelaces_nobzq1
      March 23, 2020 / 2:17 pm

      A classic “educated” response – you must be in administration – just looking at numbers and not looking at the reality. The reality is nurses don’t have ANYTHING. The reality is nurses are being told to PASS OFF their masks onto the next shift. Nurses are being told to cut holes in garbage bags because there is no PPE. So you’re right. I’m not looking at the numbers or the data or the research. I’m listening to the people. I agree with you, I’m aware that cloth can hold the virus and that holding the moisture into the N95 can deteriorate the composition of the mask (assuming they even have an N95) aware that they have to be changed more frequently. This is still a huge debate in the medical community and I don’t need a DNP to know that there isn’t a right answer at this time. But even the CDC says, a cloth mask is better than nothing – even citing BANDANAS would be better than nothing. You’re right – classroom teaching isn’t for me. I teach the hands on clinical portion of the class. Similar to how offering constructive criticism isn’t for you.

  4. Logan Smith DNP
    March 23, 2020 / 3:04 pm

    The WHO is an international organization that has world wide experience dealing with this virus. The CDC is making recommendations based on the unknown on how this virus is reacting in the US. The WHO knows more than the CDC about this particular pathogen. And yes, I’m in administration. I came across your blog looking for PPE info on my day off. I’ve worked 7 20 hour days straight trying to keep my people safe, and I needed a day off! Working 3 12s? I would love that schedule. I’ll keep my nurses safe by following guidelines and recommendations. I worked my tail off getting my DNP and not at some online school either. You need to learn respect and humility young lady. Your blog is riddled with utter disrespect for everyone around you, and air of “I’m better than everyone” and you can do no wrong. Until you learn respect, I can imagine you’ll be stuck right where you are. I would not want to be on your team, and you would not last long on my team. I will pray hard for your facility and team.

    • thepinkshoelaces_nobzq1
      March 23, 2020 / 4:01 pm

      seem to have struck a chord. You obviously haven’t spent much time on my blog. Which is totally fine. I talk about what it is like to make a medication error, when I have made a medication error, what it is like being a new nurse, when I screw up, when I make mistakes, when we couldn’t afford food in the cafeteria before we found Dave Ramsey, my previous 60+ hour work schedule (which was actually just 2 weeks ago until the corona virus ended my 18 hr/week job on top of my 0.9 in the ER) and what it’s actually like to be a mom and a nurse. If those totally open and honest and raw posts make me “holier than thou” in your eyes then so be it. Now before you see yourself away from my blog “old man” I have a few questions for you:

      1) do you feel better now that you’ve ridiculed a random stranger on the internet?
      2) do you talk to your nurses this way? Belittling the 36 hours they put in for you each week?
      3) Do you always leave random posts on the internet rubbing your credentials in everyone’s face?
      4) Do you refer to other people as young lady?
      5) Why are you searching for data regarding PPE on a personal blog? Is that how your fancy DNP school taught you how to conduct research? I would recommend reviewing some evidence based practice or peer reviewed articles. After all it seems you don’t take advice from BSNs, especially from some “online school.”
      6) Are you reaching out to your hospital administrator friends across the country and sharing your expertise regarding cloth masks with them? Because they are the ones asking for them.

      It’s plastered all over every news channel. I’m not just magically pulling this information out of thin air. They asked the public. The majority of my followers actually are women over the age of 50 who like to sew. Not arrogant “DNPs.” They are actually sewing them for the hospitals who are ASKING for them.

      So while I’m appreciative of the ad revenue your rant has given me, if you would kindly see yourself off of my blog, you wouldn’t be wasting your precious day off praying for my lost soul.

      • Tammy
        March 24, 2020 / 4:52 pm

        Well said! You are doing a Wonderful job! We are here for you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *