RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- A local nurse says she recently resigned after she says she wasn’t allowed to wear a mask while working with patients.
The nurse has 32 years of experience and worked for St. Mary’s hospital. She asked to remain anonymous to protect herself.
The head of a state nursing organization said concerns about personal protection equipment (PPE) and the safety of nurses are on the rise.
"Nurses don't want to be part of the problem, they want to be part of the solution,” the nurse told News 4.
She says she bought N-95 masks with her own money so she didn't jeopardize the hospital's supply. She doesn't work with coronavirus patients but wanted protection for her and her co-workers because people not showing symptoms can spread the virus.
"I walked into work with my mask on and my boss said I had to take it off. I told her I would not take it off or I would quit,” the nurse said. “It was for my safety, my coworkers safety, my patient's safety."
So she resigned and she says officials with the hospital told her to leave without a two-week notice.
"I really found it shocking that for me to protect myself during a pandemic that they would let a nurse walk out the door," the nurse said.
St. Mary's said the following to News 4:
"We believe there is no basis in fact to the allegations that nursing leaders have directed nurses to work in an unsafe manner. We do currently have restrictions on hospital staff supplying their own PPE as we cannot guarantee that personal PPE is up to CDC standards and has been properly sterilized. "
"It just blows my mind that when our nurses are wanting to wear protective equipment that they are being told they're not able to,” Heidi Lucas said, the director of the Missouri Nurses Association.
Lucas said calls with concerns about the safety of nurses are on the rise.
"If we lose our healthcare workforce, if our healthcare workforce gets sick in mass what are we going to do?" Lucas said.
Metro bus drivers are allowed to wear N-95 masks. A former St. Mary's nurse is asking what about nurses. She says she doesn't regret taking a stand.
"I would regret it if I made my family sick, if I made my other coworkers. If I made a patient sick,” the nurse said. “I would never get over that."
Lucas said one Kansas City hospital is allowing all its employees to wear masks.
St. Mary's Hospital is saying first and foremost, the safety of patients and staff is the top priority.
The nurse says any interaction with patients can put hospital staff at risk because people can carry the virus and give it to others without showing symptoms. She told the story of another worker who tried to practice social distancing.
"She sits at a desk and so family members come up to talk with her. Early on I said you need to put a sign up to tell people to step back,” the nurse said. "They made her take it off and she's at DePaul hospital right now and she's waiting on her result and she sounds terrible."
The number of nurses expressing concern about working conditions is growing.