Vincentian residents and our coworkers are counting on us to protect each other from COVID-19 exposure. At this stage of the pandemic, it is highly likely that some Vincentian staff may come to work as asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19. This is why certain staff have been fit-tested and provided N95 respirators.

Proper use of the N95 respirator is a good defense against this scenario because it acts as an effective source control. The N95 only works when it is worn properly. Vincentian is committed to providing employees with the tools they need to protect themselves, their coworkers and our residents from COVID-19.

Below are some frequently asked questions regarding N95s and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

How did Vincentian decide who receives an N95, and why did or didn’t I get one?
N95s are distributed to nursing home staff based on the following: 1) you are in direct contact with a suspect or confirmed positive resident, or 2) you are working in a support function in an area (a “red zone” or “yellow zone”) where there are suspected or confirmed positive resident(s), or 3) the entire senior community where you work has been designated as a COVID-19 exposed zone.  Everyone who is issued an N95 must be fit tested by Vincentian safety staff.

Can I use a 3M 8210 even though I was fit-tested on the blue 3M model 1860?
Don’t mix and match N95s!  You were fit-tested for a specific make and model of N95. You must continue to wear that same make and model.  When you need a fresh N95, make sure that it is the same make and model number.  Many N95s look alike but they are not interchangeable.

If I can smell through my N95, does that mean it is not protecting me?
It’s OK if you can smell things through your N95.  On the molecular level, odors are different than COVID-19.  Your N95 is still blocking out COVID-19 while allowing odors to pass through.  Just because you can still smell a variety of odors does not mean that your N95 is not working.

Why is my face shield fogging up?
It’s OK if your face shield fogs up – it is just body heat!  The heat from your breath has to go somewhere.  Your N95 will release your breath and body heat and still protect you from COVID-19.

Why can’t I use the N95 that has the exhalation valve?
If your N95 has an exhalation valve, you didn’t get it from VCS and you were not fit-tested for that mask.  Leave that mask at home.  The exhalation valve allows unfiltered air to leave your mask.  If you are an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19, your unfiltered contagious respiratory droplets can infect our residents.

If I wear my N95, should I still worry so much about washing my hands?
Hand hygiene is important!  N95 usage is not the only way to protect our residents. Our residents and coworkers are counting on us to wear all our PPE, wash our hands, and practice social distancing at all times.  

Can I double mask to keep my N95 clean?
Don’t double mask! The best way to keep your N95 clean is to wear your face shield. To be effective, the N95 must be worn directly on your face.  A surgical mask UNDER your N95 will cause leakage and render your N95 useless, and a surgical mask worn OVER your N95 may make it difficult for you to breathe. The medical evaluation that was part of your fit test did not take into account you wearing two masks at once.  Some people may find that the increased breathing resistance is bad for their health. Only wear one mask.

I saw someone with a P100 respirator at work.  I want one of them instead of my N95.  Why can’t I have one?
First and foremost, it’s important for everyone to know that an N95 respirator no more or less effective than a P100 respirator in protecting the wearer from COVID-19 and for source control. There is no difference between the two in effectiveness.

There are certain Vincentian personnel who have been issued the P100 instead of the N95.  The three most common reasons are 1) they are assigned to the COVID Unit at Vincentian Home, or, 2) they did not pass the N95 fit test and are considered essential for providing resident care, or, 3) certain individuals in nursing leadership have been given P100s due to fact that they are conducting COVID-19 testing of residents and staff. The availability of P100s is limited and they are issued at the discretion of the Vincentian safety department.

What should I do if I have more questions?
If you have any questions regarding your N95 or any other PPE, we are here to assist you. Please don’t hesitate to contact Vincentian Safety Manager, Audrey Alcorn at 724-814-1459, or Nathan Doherty, Safety Director at 412-297-3347,