The recent COVID-19 pandemic has brought the importance of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the forefront of many discussions in the medical community. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines PPE as “specialized clothing or equipment worn by an employee for protection against infectious materials.” Typical PPE used in healthcare settings include gloves, gowns/aprons, masks/respirators, goggles, and face shields.
Common PPE Mistakes
It’s important to be aware of the most common mistakes that medical professionals make regarding PPE so that you can avoid these yourself. The most common PPE mistake is using ill-fitting equipment. If your PPE doesn’t fit you the right way, it will be practically useless.
Another common PPE mistake arises when the equipment is used incorrectly. When wearing PPE, make sure to limit touch contamination; don’t touch your face or other PPE with contaminated gloves. Additionally, make sure you change your PPE if it is compromised or heavily soiled (even if this happens during the same patient), and change it between each patient.
When it is Needed
There are several factors that will determine when you will need to use PPE. These factors include: 1) the type of anticipated exposure (whether it be touch, splashes/sprays, or body fluids), and 2) the type of isolation precaution the patient requires. If you are interacting with a patient at a distance greater than six feet, and you anticipate the level of exposure to infection will be relatively low, then you will probably need less PPE than if you were interacting closely with a patient and expected to touch their bodily fluids. Make sure to put on your PPE before entering into contact with the patient.
How to Dispose of It
Properly disposing of PPE is just as important as putting it on properly. The proper disposal of your PPE will be determined by whether your site is “clean” or “contaminated.” “Clean” areas include the inside of the gloves, gown, and goggles. “Contaminated” areas include the outside front and sleeves of the gown and the outside of the goggles, mask, respirator, gloves, and face shield. As you remove your PPE, your goal should be to limit opportunities for self-contamination. Remove your gloves first, then your face shield or goggles, then the gown, then the mask. Make sure to dispose of your PPE in the appropriate receptacle.
You can avoid common PPE mistakes by ensuring a proper fit, using it properly, and disposing of it properly. Good luck, stay healthy, and use your PPE well!