There’s never any excuse for any healthcare facility—especially weeks into this crisis—not providing their doctors with adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Here are the 3 things you want to do before starting work in any new hospital or clinic, at this unique time.
During this national emergency, physicians everywhere are answering the call and going above and beyond. Many will be working in new facilities as they dedicate their medical skills to the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. There’s never any excuse for any healthcare facility—especially weeks into this crisis—not providing their doctors with adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Here are the 3 things you want to do before starting work in any new hospital or clinic, at this unique time:
1. Ask directly. Pose the question in direct and blunt terms to your supervisor and the administration: “Do you provide us with all the PPE we need?”. It’s your well-being on the line, and this is not anything to be shy of asking—even before you get to some of the other more familiar questions about your working environment. Then get into specifics, such as how long you are expected to keep N95s or other protective equipment. Is it replaced after a certain number of patients or at the end of the day? Do you recycle them? Will you be provided with a face shield, adequate gowns, and other hazard suits if you are in aerosolized rooms?
2. Speak with future colleagues. Be sure to talk directly with physicians already working in the hospital, about their experiences with PPE. Confirm what you had originally been told. It’s not like any healthcare professional has ever started working in a hospital, and found out it’s completely different from what administration told them (we say, couldn’t resist being sarcastic—but you get the drift as an intelligent professional).
3. Get it written in your contract. These are unprecedented times, and it’s perfectly reasonable to insist that the healthcare facility writes clearly in the contract, that they will provide you with adequate PPE. If there’s space for all the other legal jargon they usually put in, they can certainly add a crucial line like this. If it ever becomes a problem or you hit a brick wall, the least you want is a written (could be email) reassurance that you will have adequate protection when you are seeing patients.
Few things could be more heart-wrenching than the stories we are seeing of dedicated medical professionals, sent into battle against this invisible enemy, practically begging for PPE. It’s unacceptable in a country as wealthy as the United States. You owe it to yourself, to do everything possible to ensure this isn’t you, before you sign up for your next moonlighting or per diem work.
Suneel Dhand MD is an internal medicine physician, author and speaker. He is the cofounder of DocsDox (www.DocsDox.com), a service that helps physicians find local moonlighting and per diem opportunities, bypassing the expensive middleman.