Personal protective equipment (PPE) and the Coronavirus (covid-19) pandemic

Dr Kieran Walsh explores the issues around personal protective equipment (PPE) during this Coronavirus (covid-19) pandemic

Personal protective equipment is vital in protecting healthcare staff who are working during a pandemic.

It can not only protect individual healthcare professionals but also prevent the onward spread of the disease. Recently, there has been a lot of news regarding the availability or unavailability of personal protective equipment. However, not as much attention has been paid to whether healthcare professionals have been trained correctly in putting on (donning) and taking off (doffing) the equipment.

So – to start with the basics – how good are healthcare professionals at putting on this equipment and at taking it off?

Researchers at King Abdulaziz University Hospital in Saudi Arabia have done a fascinating study to find answers to these questions. (1) They used a checklist of things that healthcare professionals should do when donning and doffing personal and protective equipment. What they discovered is concerning in some parts and reassuring in others. Of concern was the fact that they found that their healthcare professionals scored only 37% on the checklist items at the start of the study. This means that most of these healthcare professionals would not be fully protected from infections when seeing affected patients. However, what was reassuring was the fact that their scores improved significantly after simulation training. Healthcare professionals also felt more confident and prepared after their training.

However, it required a major effort on behalf of the institution to make this all happen. It needed a “joint effort from the organization leaders, administration, simulation experts, and department leaders.” The authors are upfront about the implications of this for the generalizability of the program – they express concern that programs like this might not work without a great deal of support from various stakeholders.

The use of multimedia e-learning to learn about personal protective equipment

BMJ Learning has published a package of learning resources on how to don and doff personal protective equipment. The modules cover the importance of infection prevention and control, when to isolate a patient, when to use basic personal protective equipment, and most importantly, how to put it on and take it off.

Virtual learning is vital during a pandemic, as training in person may not be possible. Of course, training on how to use personal protective equipment is not an end in itself, but rather a means to safely care for affected patients. If you suspect your patient has COVID-19, then BMJ Best Practice can offer high value clinical decision support that will work at the point of care. (2) The BMJ Best Practice topic on COVID-19 is freely available. And there is a range of other content available from the BMJ.


References

  1. Abualenain JT, Al-Alawi MM. Simulation-based training in Ebola Personal Protective Equipment for healthcare workers: Experience from King Abdulaziz University Hospital in Saudi Arabia. J Infect Public Health.2018 May 17. pii: S1876-0341(18)30070-4.
  2. Walsh K. Cost and value in healthcare professional education-why the slow pace of change? American journal of pharmaceutical education. 2013. 77 (9), 205

Competing interests

Kieran Walsh works for BMJ which produces a range of resources on infectious and non-infectious diseases.

Resources

For free access to BMJ Best Practice's Coronavirus (covid-19) support please go to: https://bestpractice.bmj.com/info/coronavirus_covid-19/

To access free resources from across the BMJ please go to: https://www.bmj.com/coronavirus