COVID-19 ICU: The 12 Commandments for Front Line Clinicians

nick pastron covid-19 icu 12 commandments

By Nicholas Pastron, RN, BSN

I did not climb a mountain nor talk to God, but I did stare the devil in the face! As a New York COVID-19 ICU RN, I felt compelled to help my fellow clinicians in other states as they are now seeing spikes. Here are the 12 Commandments for COVID-19 Front Line Clinicians.

1. Assume Everybody is Covid-19 Positive

Do not let your guard down. You may find yourself in another area that is supposedly non-COVID-19 and people may tell you it is OK to only wear a surgical mask, but I am telling you, it is not wise. Since the onset of COVID-19 symptoms may be delayed 5-7 days, patients may be infected and not know it. I have seen COVID-19 positive patients test negative with swab tests a couple of times in a row and then later become positive. The official healthcare word on the street is only to believe a negative swab test if it is 3 times negative. But always believe a positive, because there is no real way to fudge that.

2. Wear an N95 Mask with a Basic Surgical Mask on Top

According to the CDC, the N95 mask filters on average 95% of the particulate matter in the air (CDC, 2020a). According to 3M’s Averaged Filtration Efficiency Chart, Coronaviridae may penetrate at a higher rate due to their small size (3M, 2020a). With Coronaviridae at roughly 1.25 microns in size, the particle penetration rate of the N95 can decrease down to 93-94% (3M, 2020a). This increases the safety risk to the frontline clinical staff and therefore I recommend wearing a surgical mask over your N95. This will give you an additional layer of protection and since you will be most likely reusing your N95, this may help to keep it slightly cleaner.

I personally have worn the same N95 mask for 1 week straight, four consecutive 13-hour shifts in COVID-19 ICU. By the second day, the N95 mask already smelled bad so I was very concerned. Over my 19 years ICU RN experience as well as the CDC’s protocol, clinicians are to throw away the N95 after each use. Because of the N95 mask shortage, clinicians were all of a sudden told it was OK to wear the N95 mask for extended periods of time. I had never heard of this protocol, so I decided to research it.

Amid the COVID-19 crisis and N95 mask shortage, the CDC then published new guidelines that conveniently allowed N95 usage past the intended shelf life in times of increased demand and decreased supply (CDC, 2020b). I understand the agenda here, there were no masks to be had! But the mask manufacturer 3M stated the potential exists that the N95 may not perform up to standard if used past intended use (3M, 2020b). Over time components of the N95 mask degrade and affect the quality and fit (3M, 2020b).

3. Wear Eye Protection, Goggles Preferably

COVID-19 can infect you through your eyes, just like the flu, so please cover your eyes with either a shield or preferably goggles. I prefer goggles because I was able to tighten them over the bridge of my nose to improve my upper seal on my N95 mask. I always felt a potential seal break would occur above the bridge of my nose. When you are wearing a mask all day long it gets hot and I would notice if I yawned or talked too much I could feel cool air coming in, so this is why I adapted this protocol. After I applied goggles, I never felt this cool air again.

***Recommendations: Use Anti-Fog spray that one uses in scuba diving to stop fogging up of goggles. Also, I added tape to the bottom of my surgical mask to add a better seal, which can be seen in the above photo.

4. Don’t Touch Your Face

Common Sense – Keep your hands away from your mouth and eyes. With various reports of the Coronavirus being able to stay alive for days on hard, inanimate surfaces, you could infect yourself by touching your eyes or mouth.

5. Don’t Eat Lunch with your Coworkers

Assume everybody has COVID-19! A large percentage of the COVID-19 positive are healthcare workers and I imagine many spread it to each other in this manner. Eat by yourself!!! I’m sure it will be boring, but sometimes being a smart clinician does not always equate to being a fun clinician. I would also recommend never taking your mask off in a room unless you know nobody has been in there for at least 3 hours. There have been reports of COVID-19 staying in the air for 3 hours.

6. Develop a Bleach Wipe & Plastic Bag Routine

When you come into work, put your name on your workstation and chair and bleach wipe it off. Sharing is not caring in this situation; you never know where somebody else has been.

Disrobing is also an important routine that may require several garbage bags. Although wasteful, I recommend placing one garbage bag on top of either a table or garbage can in the bathroom. I would place my wallet, my phone; etc. on this bag after I bleach wiped them.

Then I would place another clean bag on the floor before I disrobed. I would step onto the floor bag with shoes off, take off my scrubs and place them directly in a bag and seal it. I would them change into a clean set of scrubs so I would feel safe sitting in my car to go home. Washing hands multiple times, basically any time I came in contact with anything unclean.

As soon as I got to my car, I would set my belonging in another clean bag and place it on the floor, then I would sanitize my hands and clean where I touched.

7. Get Buck-Naked at your Doorstep

Just as this virus probably escaped a Chinese lab on somebody’s shoe, do not bring this home to your family. Shoes off at the door or even keep those nasty shoes in your car trunk. And more importantly, get naked at the door and put all of your clothes in a plastic garbage bag! Gracefully tiptoe naked directly to your hot shower. I would not do a bath… baths are dirty! Keep the laundry bag by your door and when you wash your clothes, make sure you use bleach or something else with virus-killing power!

8. Shave your Beard, 5 O’ Clock Shadow may not kill you, but Yasser Arafat length is too long!

This is all about not breaking the seal on your N95 mask. It is common sense, but in the time of beards being “in”, this has to be said. If you have a beard for religious reasons, and absolutely cannot shave, then buy a PAPR hood. This offers much better protection at about 9.97 filtration vs. an N95 anyways, but the price is about $1300-$1800. The real issue is most PAPR’s are out of stock, so very hard to find right now. Just shave the beard, it is not worth it!

9. Best Practice – Moonshine is Purell for your Mouth

I’m not trying to encourage drinking here; you could even swish it around and spit it out. But for serious safety precautions, I would perform this best practice protocol after encountering severe situations just incase any virus got through my mask. For instance, if you have ever had a homeless COVID-19 person cough directly in your face for a 12-hour shift, this may prove beneficial. I cannot say for sure because I could not find anybody interested in being involved in my double-blind clinical trial.

I personally prefer Climax Moonshine, from the famous History Channel moonshiner: Tim Smith. High enough proof alcohol can kill the Coronavirus. It is very, very strong stuff; so maybe just swish and spit it out so you don’t burn your esophagus. Possibly anything like a strong vodka or mouthwash may be beneficial in killing any bugs in your mouth.

10. If you are not a Meticulously Detailed Person, Maybe you Shouldn’t Come Home

If you do not think you can follow a strict routine of disinfecting and disrobing with proper plastic bagging technique, then maybe you should not come home. Another option is to have anybody of vulnerable population leave and stay somewhere else for a while. Every COVID-19 patient that was in the hospital had an entire family at home that was COVID-19 positive. I personally did not see any family member escape it. It seemed if one person in the house had it, the whole house caught it. There was no visitation because of this and I talked to A LOT of families on the phone!

11.  It’s OK to Cry and Take Something to Help you Sleep at Night

Your facility just turned into a warzone overnight… It is OK and totally normal to be upset. In my 19 years of ICU experience, I have never seen this much death in my life. It’s unnerving and I had to talk to my doctor to get something to help me sleep at night. One would not be able to function at a high level without sleep.

YES, I cried and it is OK! I had the honor of taking care of one of my friendly coworkers who passed away, so yes it is OK to cry. Totally normal when you go through such a traumatic event!

12. Never Trust the Narrative

It seemed as if nobody prepared for the COVID-19 crisis as it just steamrolled over New York. No testing kits or N95 masks available as if no hospital disaster plan had ever been thought out or planned for. I saw the narrative change multiple times to fit the agenda.

·     Narrative changed from: You do not need to be tested unless you are hospitalized, to everybody needs to be tested. ***This was due to a test shortage

·     Narrative changed from: Wash Your Hands- You Do Not Need a Mask, to everybody should be wearing N95 Mask. *** This was due to a Mask Shortage

 ·     Narrative changed from: You normally throw N95 masks out after each use, to now you can magically wear a N95 for an entire week, even though the manufacturer warns against the safety of this. *** This was due to Mask Shortages and questions of how long it would take for the pandemic to be over

I could continue but I don’t have enough room! The narrative was continuously engineered to fit the agenda! Critically think about everything you hear and do not be a blind sheep follower. Sometimes you have to go with your gut!


Nicholas Pastron, RN, BSN, CEO of As an ICU Clinician with 19 years of experience, I had never been through a war zone called the COVID ICU. I had the honor of caring for one of my best respiratory therapists for weeks, as he passed away from COVID-19 on a ventilator. I feel compelled to help my fellow clinicians in other states as they are now seeing spikes in COVID-19 cases. STAY SAFE MY FRIENDS!

Republished by RTSleepWorld with permission, respect and admiration. Thank you, Nick, and to all the front line workers.


3M. (2020a, February). COVID-19 | 3M Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Info. http://Www.3m.Com.

3M. (2020b, May). COVID-19 | 3M Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Info. http://Www.3m.Com.

CDC. (2020a). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Surgical Mask N95 Respirator Testing and Approval.

CDC. (2020b, February 11). Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of N95 Respirators: COVID-19. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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