Minnesota nurses call on hospitals to unify safety measures as coronavirus pandemic worsens

The men and women on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak not only have the health and safety of their patients to worry about, but also themselves and their families.

That's why having protective gear for doctors and nurses is so critical. And, concerns over bringing the virus home with them has many taking extra precautions to protect their loved ones.

"I have areas of my house where I’m going to be taking contaminated or potentially contaminated material so my kids don’t walk in those areas," explained ER nurse Cliff Willmeng.

Willmeng has some new protocols in place at his home to try to keep his family safe.

"I took red duct tape and I taped an area off in my garage and so I could take stuff off," he explained.

Willmeng works in an emergency room in St. Paul. He says he would like to see some simple changes at the hospital he works at so he doesn’t have to bring home his worn scrubs each day.

"Anyone working a frontline capacity, whether you’re cleaning a room, front line registrar, or doctor or nurse or EMT, you should be getting hospital-issued scrubs," he said. "It’s a no brainer."

But there are other concerns weighing on the minds of health care workers.

"Isolation gowns, our emergency department is saying we’re almost out already," said Mary Turner, an ICU nurse and the president of the Minnesota Nurses Association. "Or doctors that have to approach a patient without an N-95, the risk they’re taking."

Turner is working to make sure her fellow nurses are getting what they need right now.

"The issue facing us now that we want to try to solve is the fact that our health care companies are all doing different things and we really desperately want them to be on the same page," she explained.

The union would like to see protocols and procedures across different hospital systems be more cohesive.

"It just would be nice to know that you could go from one system to another and have all the same standards in this time of crisis," she added.

Turner says the stakes are too high not to be working together.

"Because if we don’t, we are going to have doctors and nurses and health care workers starting to die and that’s the reality," she said.

The Minnesota Nurses Association says they are working to bring the hospital systems to the table -- or on a conference call in these times -- to talk about unifying some of their procedures. So far, Mayo Clinic has agreed.