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Issues with N95 Mask Respirators

Mask Facts:

  • Masks aren’t interchangeable.
  • Masks are designed to protect patients, and HCWs only from splash—not aerosols.
  • Masks aren’t required to be fitted-gaps OK.
  • Masks are designed for one-time use; masks are often re-used.
  • Masks are often worn incorrectly.
  • Masks are insufficient to protect against airborne particulates.

N95 (Mask) Respirator Facts:

  • N95s must be fitted to the wear’s face and seal tested.
  • A fit test determines size of N95.
  • A seal check determines whether it has been donned and adjusted properly.
  • N95s should be performed at least annually, or at the occurance of facial changes, including
    • Scarring
    • Noticable weight loss
    • Cosmetic surgery
    • Dental changes
    • Facial hair

Summary of key points relative to general use of respirators in healthcare environments.

  • Respirators must be NIOSH approved.
  • Employers must establish and implement a written respiratory protection program, to include:
    • Respirator selection
    • Medical evaluation (employee fitness to wear identified respirators)
    • Fit testing
    • Training
    • Use
    • Care (maintenance)


Many, even healthcare professionals “erroneously” believe that the need/not need of respirators is based on TB patients.

  • TB patient frequency is only the most obvious justification for protection against airborne pathogens.
  • Even low incidence of patients and conditions that may produce airborne pathogens is not a justification for not being optimally prepared—
  • If you are not properly prepared, you will not be able to avoid an incident when the conditions occur.
  • Even one incident is costly.
  • What is the cost of one incident?
    • A couple dozen MAXAIRs? Several dozen? More?
    • Even an “innocuous” case of TB could cost an RN incident for the equivalent of 15-25 MAXAIRs—enough to cover the N.P. rooms of most hospitals.

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