A significant number of nurses, including some in the most high-risk environments, have felt pressure to work with inadequate protection, a union alleged.
High-risk includes areas where patients with or suspected of having Covid-19 were being treated on ventilators.
Nearly half of those surveyed from Northern Ireland (42%) helping patients in such areas reported being asked to re-use items of protective equipment marked single use by manufacturers.
Of those treating Covid-19 patients elsewhere, over a third (38%) said they were being asked to re-use.
Pat Cullen, director of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Northern Ireland said: “We all know that nursing staff have been under enormous pressure during this pandemic, however it is shocking to find that nurses are feeling pressurised to work without the protection they need.”
The findings are from a survey conducted by the College to provide a snapshot of PPE shortages over the Easter weekend.
Health chiefs in Northern Ireland say they have secured millions of items from international and local suppliers.
Ms Cullen added: “This is an anxious and worrying time for staff, and they must have the reassurance that they can do their jobs with all of the equipment necessary.
“Time and time again we have been on record as saying this, and it is disappointing to find that there are still problems.
“Nurses carry out the majority of direct patient care and, while we acknowledge that these are extremely challenging times, we must resolve these issues. If we don’t, this will inevitably lead to further problems.”
The survey of nursing staff from Northern Ireland said:
– Almost a quarter of nursing staff treating Covid-19 positive patients not on ventilators report an immediate lack of face and eye protection;
– Less than half of nursing staff (48%) believe they have enough alcohol hand rub;
– One in 10 nurses is relying on face or eye protection they have bought or homemade.
– Over half did not have access to either suitable changing facilities (51%) or washing/ showering facilities (58%).