Health care professionals come in contact with many different infectious diseases on a daily basis. When working so closely with patients, it is important they be provided with the appropriate tools to protect themselves from these infections. It is also important that providers are educated on the different forms of disease transmission and what equipment is required to keep themselves (and other patients) safe. The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is crucial in the fight for personal safety and against unnecessary spread within hospitals and communities.
Personal protective equipment is a primary way to protect oneself from hazardous diseases or environmental pathogens. The FDA, (2020), defines PPE as “protective clothing, helmets, gloves, face shields, goggles, facemasks and/or respirators or other equipment designed to protect the wearer from injury or the spread of infection or illness.” The goal of health care workers wearing PPE is to prevent contaminating themselves through their skin, eyes, mouths, and nose (your mucous membranes) when working with infectious patients (FDA, 2020). It is best to use these types of equipment when you are working with diseases that can be transmitted through physical contact, contact with droplets, or through the air.
During this pandemic of COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released specific guidelines that healthcare workers should follow in regard to PPE. Because COVID-19 has been deemed a droplet & contact transmission, with the possibility of it being air-born when aerosolized by certain equipment (such as ventilators and nebulizers), it is important that medical professionals wear full PPE when working with suspected or COVID+ patients. In addition to wearing PPE it is also crucial that all persons practice proper hand hygiene before donning this equipment or interacting with any other person. It is important to use either soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and scrub your hands for 20 seconds in order for the washing to be effective.
The CDC reports that the proper method of putting on your PPE, or what we call donning is as follows:
- You first perform hand hygiene with either soap and water or a hand sanitizer.
- Put on the isolation gown, tying all of the ties.
- Put on the approved N95 filtering face mask respirator, fitting the nose piece to the bridge of the nose.
- Put on the face shield or goggles.
- Re-perform hand hygiene.
- Place gloves on and then enter the room.
The removal of the PPE needs to be done carefully and with patience. You fist remove your gloves and gown, gently, making sure to pull down and away from the body (Using PPE, n.d.). After this is done, they CDC recommends that the healthcare providers may then leave the patients room, perform hand hygiene, and then continue to remove the face shield or goggles, followed by the respirator (Using PPE, n.d.). Once this is complete hand hygiene is to be performed one more time.
Due to the mass use of N95 respirators there is a national shortage and a struggle to preserve the ones we have. Many hospitals have been limiting the number of masks to be given to their employees to one per person unless the mask becomes visibly soiled or broken. Fischer, (2020), reports that you can safely reuse your N95 for up to three uses, even though they are only supposed to be worn once and then thrown away. Fischer, (2020), and his co-researchers determined that you can decontaminate your N95 by using a ‘vaporized hydrogen peroxide, 70-degree Celsius dry heat, ultraviolet light, and 70% ethanol spray.” Even though this will only keep your mask clean for three uses, it is still a way to preserve your masks and protect yourselves while working through this pandemic.
We all need to work together to slow the spread of this virus and to protect our most vulnerable populations. The CDC is pleading for us to remain six feet apart from one another, preventing these infectious droplets from touching our skin or entering our eyes, noses, and mouths. Droplets that hold COVID-19 can produced when one who is infected coughs, sneezes, or simply talks (Protect Yourself, 2020). We need to be diligent to avoid close contact with people who are sick by staying home as much as possible, keeping distance between ourselves, wearing cloth face coverings (or masks) that cover our noses and mouths while we are out in public or around other people, covering our coughs and sneezes with tissues or cloths and making sure to throw those tissues in the trash (Protect Yourself, 2020). Most importantly, washing one’s hands is crucial. Using soap and water for at least 20 seconds or a 60% alcohol-based hand-sanitizer is recommended to rid this virus from your hands (Protect Yourself, 2020).
Following these rules and supporting one another throughout this pandemic is the best way to flatten the curve.
Using PPE. (n.d.). Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/using-ppe.html
Infection Control Guidance. (2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/infection-control-recommendations.html
FDA. (2020). Personal Protective Equipment for Infection Control. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/general-hospital-devices-and-supplies/personal-protective-equipment-infection-control
Fischer, R. (2020). NIH Study validates decontamination methods for re-use of N95 respirators. National Institute of Health. Retrieved from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-validates-decontamination-methods-re-use-n95-respirators
Protect Yourself. (2020). Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html