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'We are dedicated to helping': What an ER nurse wants people to know about COVID-19

Social distancing might seem minor, but it is one of the best ways for people to protect themselves and loved ones from coronavirus.
Courtesy of Mike Hastings
/ Source: TODAY

Mike Hastings, 44, works as an emergency department nurse manager in a hospital in metro Seattle and serves as the president of the Emergency Nurses Association. Since January, Hastings and his team have been preparing for COVID-19. He shared with TODAY what he wants people to know about the virus, the pandemic and the vital role nurses play in this pandemic.

Since 2014, I’ve worked in various emergency departments across the country. We’ve always known that social distancing, washing hands properly and staying home when sick, prevents the spread of the seasonal flu and colds.

Now more than ever nurses want people to stay home — whether you have symptoms or not. The best way to slow the transmission of COVID-19 is avoiding people. If you are sick, isolate yourself from other people, even the people you live with. If you cover your cough with your hands, wash them immediately. But most importantly, just stay home. It might sound minor, but social distancing is the best way for people to protect themselves and loved ones from the coronavirus.

Social distancing, staying home, is the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 says nurse, Mike Hastings. Cuddling with pets and not people is certainly a way to go. Courtesy Mike Hastings

Not everyone who contracts COVID-19 will exhibit symptoms. Some people will need medical intervention, and some of these patients will need the help of a ventilator and intensive treatments. The patients who have the most severe cases need the most resources. That’s why it is so important to stay home and reduce the spread of COVID-19. Having cases of the illness spread over a longer period of time makes it easier for the health care system to treat those with severe symptoms.

Yes, coronavirus is scary and can be fatal. Yet, there are also people who recover from COVID-19 without such intense treatment. It's good to know there is hope for some in bleak times.

While many people bought medical masks hoping to protect themselves from coronavirus, masks don’t work the way people think. Annually, health care employees undergo a fitting for the N95 masks to make sure they rest snugly on each person’s face. This protects us from contracting viruses, such as COVID-19.

Now, hospitals are running out of masks at a time when they are needed the most. And, just getting a mask off the shelf and wearing it is not as effective protection as people might think because they will not sit properly on people’s faces. That means they’re doing little to prevent someone from contracting COVID-19. One of my biggest concerns as a manager is making sure that my staff have the personal protection equipment they need to stay safe while providing care.

Emergency department nurses have special training to deal with disasters, which helps them as they grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, Mike Hastings says. Courtesy Mike Hastings

Emergency room nurses prepare for disasters and worst-case scenarios. That training helps us as we face the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Some people might worry that if they go to the emergency room with a broken bone or injury, they might not be seen. But we are dedicated to helping everyone to the best of our abilities. We provide care for everyone from their first breath to the last one.

These days, people might notice different procedures if they do come to an emergency department, but those are in place to protect everyone. We understand there are a lot unknowns, which creates anxiety. But nurses are here to provide the best treatment for all conditions, not just for those with COVID-19.

We hear a lot of rumors and misinformation about COVID-19 and we recommend our patients and community members seek out information from reputable sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Emergency Nurses Association. A friend's social media post might sound tempting but it's best to rely on public health experts about COVID-19.