Healthcare workers across the country are going the extra mile to protect their communities from the coronavirus, but coming home after a long day at work presents a different challenge: protecting their loved ones from the coronavirus. Many providers are dealing with a limited supply of medical supplies, while others may not know if they have the virus as testing slowly ramps up across the U.S.
Many nurses are worried about potentially infecting their loved ones, including young children, their spouses, and older generations, who tend to be more susceptible to COVID-19. Several states have cancelled classes for the rest of the school year and keeping everyone in the same house at the same time can be a challenge. Many nurses and providers are switching shifts, so their colleagues can be home with their children when school is not in session.
Some providers have resorted to extreme measures to ensure their loved ones stay safe, such as sleeping at work or in the garage, calling loved ones even when they’re in the next room, and eating separate meals. Use these tips to keep your home as sanitary as possible:
Must-Know Information for Healthcare Workers
Dozens of healthcare workers in the U.S. have already been infected with the virus, including nursing home employees, an ER doctor, and nurses and a physician in New Jersey. A recent study from China shows that 1 out of every 5 healthcare workers who tested positive for the virus ended up in severe or critical condition.
Providers have several reasons to be worried. The country has been running low on protective medical gear, including face masks, N95 respirators, and other essential items that can prevent the spread of the virus. Many healthcare centers and regions are working with a limited number of testing kits, which means many providers could be infected without their knowledge.
Healthcare providers can’t practice social distancing as they get close to their patients. In addition to the threat of direct contact, the virus seems to be able to live on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours. Several patients seem to have contracted the virus through what’s known as community spread, which means the virus may be able to pass through the air.
Tips for Protecting Your Loved Ones
As a nurse or healthcare provider, you shouldn’t have to choose between going to work and sacrificing the health of your loved ones. These tips will help you err on the side of caution, but there’s always a chance your family members could contract the virus. Use these tips to make the best of a difficult situation:
- Take off your clothes as soon as you get home. Stuff your scrubs in a garbage bag and change into a fresh pair of clothes before you hug your loved ones or start moving through the house. Touch nothing and take a shower immediately.
- Consider creating separate living spaces. You may have to sleep in the basement, garage, or guest room during this time. You should be sleeping in a relatively contained area, such as a private room, so avoid sleeping on the couch in the middle of the living room. Ideally, this room should have virtually everything you need, including entertainment, clothes, food, dishes, and access to a separate bathroom. If you have to leave your room every few seconds to grab something, you could still spread germs.
- Use separate entrances and exits whenever possible. You can start using the back door, while your spouse and children use the front to reduce the spread of germs.
- Set aside separate dishes, cutlery, linens, and other items. You can mark them in some way, so your loved ones know to avoid these items.
- Seal off vents, ducts and airways, so your loved ones aren’t breathing in the same air.
- Schedule meals at different times. Cooking for everyone at the same time can lead to the spread of germs. Prepare your meal separately whenever possible.
- Use FaceTime, Skype, and other social media tools to connect with your loved ones, even if you can’t be in the same room.
- Monitor yourself, your loved ones, and colleagues for signs of infection. If someone at work comes down with the virus, trace your steps to find out if you may be infected as well.
- Talk to your family about their concerns and why the virus is so dangerous. Make sure everyone is on the same page as you plan out your new home routine.
Adjusting your lifestyle at home can be a challenge. After a long day, all you want to do is come home and wrap your arms around your loved ones. However, it’s important to play it safe to limit the spread of the virus. Share your tips for living apart under the same roof so more nurses can go to work without worrying about bringing the virus home.