As part of healthcare education, students must practice certain procedures using personal protective equipment (PPE) such as surgical masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer. However, almost all nursing and healthcare programs donated their PPE to hospitals to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic surge. This month, the Oregon Center for Nursing (OCN) partnered with 10 Oregon nursing and healthcare education programs to purchase almost 10,000 face masks and other medical supplies for summer and fall nursing programs.


“Schools stepped in to help their hospital partners at the start of the pandemic,” said Jana Bitton, Executive Director of OCN. “Now is our turn to help the schools.” While participating schools covered the cost of the supplies, OCN paid for the shipping costs. 

As Oregon prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic in March, the call for extra medical supplies was met by construction companies, manufacturing and health care schools across the state. Schools emptied their supply closets of masks, gowns, and gloves, donating them to health care organizations preparing for patient surges.

OCN discovered the shortage of PPE in education settings as part of its weekly “Friday Huddle,” a call to convene nursing educators, employers and other healthcare workforce leaders throughout Oregon to respond to the pandemic.

“PPE supply chains are still under stress as hospitals and clinics work to replenish their supplies and prepare for additional COVID-19 surge,” Bitton said. “Schools from across Oregon said they are struggling to find suppliers able to fill their orders.”

OCN proposed schools pool their orders and identified a supplier able to fill the order in time for summer term. The supplies were delivered to most programs this week.

“Obtaining PPE supplies has been difficult during the pandemic,” said Pam Fifer, Dean of George Fox University’s School of Nursing. “OCN’s offer to place a large bulk order for multiple schools helped reduce costs and connect us with necessary supplies.”

OCN is a nonprofit organization created by nursing leaders in 2002. OCN facilitates research and collaboration for Oregon’s nursing workforce to support informed, well-prepared, diverse and exceptional nursing professionals. Recognized by the Oregon state legislature as a state advisor for nursing workforce issues, OCN fulfills its mission through nurse workforce research, building partnerships, and promoting nursing and healthcare.