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Healthcare workers ‘not removing protective gear correctly’

July 30, 2015

In order to stay safe in a hospital, healthcare workers need to adhere to a number of policies, which ensure the risk of any occupational hazard is kept as small as possible. These infection control practices are a crucial part of modern healthcare and also ensure that patients are given the highest standard of care possible.

This often involves protective measures such as safety devices and wearing specific clothing. However, a new report has suggested that some healthcare workers may be cutting corners when it comes to ensuring that protocol is carried out.

A new study, published in the American Journal of Infection Control, found that less than one in six healthcare workers are adhering to all US recommendations for the removal of personal protective equipment (PPE) after patient care.

Although it seems like a relatively small measure, not following national guidelines could be putting both staff members and the patients they treat at risk of being exposed to bloodborne pathogens. 

After the ebola crisis in West Africa, it's important that protocol is adhered to by all healthcare workers to reduce the risk of bloodborne pathogens leading to another outbreak.

In the study, a trained observer watched healthcare personnel entering and exiting patient rooms specified as following isolation precautions on various units of the hospital. These practices are used to help prevent germs from spreading from person to person and can require healthcare workers to wear gowns, gloves, and face protection. 

However, during the research, which took place in October 2014, the team found that many staff members were not following the correct order for the process.

The team watched 30 healthcare workers removing equipment and found that 17 removed the gown out of order, 16 wore their equipment out into the hallway, and 15 removed their gown in a manner that was not gentle. This could cause pathogens on the gown to transfer to their own clothes.

“As a result of the current Ebola outbreak, the critical issue of proper PPE removal has come front and centre,” said the researchers.

The team from the University of Wisconsin who carried out the study said removing personal protective equipment was “crucial” to prevent contamination, especially when there are emerging pathogens like ebola.

Under US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, healthcare workers are supposed to remove gloves first, then gently take off their gown from the back while still in the patient’s isolation room.

However, the research found that only about half of healthcare workers observed correctly removed their PPE, and very few removed it in the correct order and disposed of it in the proper location.

“Healthcare facilities should use this opportunity of heightened interest to undertake practice improvement focused on PPE removal protocol, including technique, for all healthcare-associated conditions that require the donning and doffing of PPE,” they added.

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