Community colleges are urged to donate respiratory masks, gloves and other protective equipment from their health-related classes to local hospitals and other healthcare facilities that are scrambling to find enough supplies in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Organization for Associate Degree Nursing (OADN), an affiliate council of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), on Friday sent a call to action to its members and other organizations to reach out to their local patient-care providers to gauge their need for personal protective equipment (PPE).
“With the pandemic spreading, the need for PPE is becoming more critical,” OADN said. “No healthcare provider should be forced to reuse or make their own PPE equipment, thus putting themselves and other individuals at risk.”
An urgent need
As community colleges and other higher education institutions switch to remotely deliver courses during the crisis, many healthcare programs such as nursing, surgical technology and dental hygiene are not currently using their PPE or have a surplus, said Donna Meyer, CEO of OADN. Some patient-care facilities only have enough protective supplies to carry them for two weeks, with nurses, doctors and other frontline workers in some cases being asked to reuse disposable masks, according to news reports.
A shortage of such equipment puts not only healthcare workers at risk, but it also affects the care of those who are ill, said Meyer, who contacted AACC, the American Nurses Association, the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, other higher education and healthcare-related organizations, as well as CastleBranch, which screens students for nursing programs and reaches 12,000 to 15,000 healthcare professionals.
“We can do something about this,” she added. “Let’s get the equipment boxed up and delivered.”
Colleges can start by contacting their clinical partners to gauge their needs, Meyer said. They also can check with other local emergency providers, such as hospitals and EMS responders, and nonemergency facilities, like nursing homes, she said. Meyer recommended first doing an inventory of equipment, in case the federal government offers reimbursement for the supplies.
Already on the move
Several community colleges — such as Central Ohio Technical College, Western Technical College (Wisconsin), Shasta College (California), Rowan County of Burlington County (New Jersey) and Lakeland Community College (Ohio) — already have helped. For example:
- The nursing programs at Middlesex County College in New Jersey donated their PPE to Raritan Bay Medical Center and its dental hygiene program donated its equipment to the Middlesex County Office of Emergency Management.
- In response to a call for help from its governor, Oregon’s Portland Community College collected nearly 12,000 PPE items for local hospitals.
- On Friday, A nursing professor at Finger Lakes Community College (New York) delivered to FF Thompson Hospital three boxes of isolation gowns, 20 boxes of gloves and 2.5 boxes of masks.
- In Texas, Galveston College’s nursing department on Friday donated several boxes of masks and gowns back to the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB Health) that UTMB had donated to the college a few years ago. UTMB Health is the largest employer on Galveston Island and many students in its healthcare programs have clinical rotations at the university’s hospital and clinics.
- The nursing and allied health department at Michigan’s Glen Oakes Community College gauged the need among area health organizations and provided a total of 83 boxes of exam gloves, four boxes of sterile gloves, six cases of isolation gowns, four boxes of face masks and four containers of chlorhexidine wipes to Revolution Health, Bronson Hospital and Three Rivers Health.
Bay Area Hospital in Coos Bay, Oregon, was especially thrilled to see Joannie Miller, director of nursing at Southeastern Oregon Community College, show up this week with extra supplies from the college’s programs.
“They treated me like Santa Claus,” Miller said.
Other equipment, too
Colleges also are providing other equipment. HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, this week loaned ventilators and a BiPAP machine from its respiratory therapy program to Geisinger Health and Penn State Health.
National Park College in Arkansas donated PPE from its nursing program and offered other equipment, such as respirators and beds, as well as space in its labs, said Melony Ritter, the college’s director of marketing and public relations. National Park also volunteered to field calls for the local COVID-19 call center.
“As our nation’s community colleges continue to adjust their programs and operations in light of the coronavirus pandemic, many are also donating medical masks, gloves, gowns and more to local healthcare providers to ensure their frontline staff are protected as they help mend those who have become ill with the virus,” said AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus. “It is remarkable to see how the institutions that are preparing students to work in the healthcare field are stepping up to help their partners and communities during this crisis.”