The What, Why, Who, and How of PPE
August 03, 2020 | Farah Jassawalla

The What, Why, Who, and How of PPE

What is PPE?

PPE stands for Personal Protective Equipment. It refers to protective clothing, helmets, goggles, or other garments and equipment that has been designed to protect the user's body from contracting infection or injury. Protective equipment addresses electrical, physical, and chemical, and hazards as well as those caused by heat, biohazards, and airborne particulate matter.

Wearing PPE is one essential way to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, and other caregivers) on the frontlines safe. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), PPE works as a barrier between an individual's skin, mouth, nose, or eyes, and viral and bacterial infections.

Who needs PPE?

Patients infected with COVID-19 should wear a face mask when being evaluated medically. 

Healthcare professionals should adhere to Standard and Transmission-based Precautions when caring for patients with COVID-19.

Steps to put on PPE

Always put on required PPE when handling either a suspected, probable, or confirmed case of viral hemorrhagic fever in a patient.

Another trained team member should be there to closely supervise the dressing and undressing of PPE.

Gather all necessary items of PPE beforehand.ut on the scrub suit in the changing room.

Wear rubber boots. If these aren't available, make sure you put on closed shoes that are puncture and fluid resistant and cover them with overshoes.

How to put on personal protective equipment

Place the impermeable gown over the scrubs. Make sure the gown size is perfect.

Put on face protection:

a. Put on a medical mask. 

b. Put on goggles or a face shield.

If available, put a headcover on at this time.

Perform hand hygiene:

a. Alcohol-based hand rub

Rub hands for 20–30 seconds.

b. Water and soap

Wash hands for 40–60 seconds.

Put on gloves. Gloves should be worn high enough that they cover the cuff of your gown.  

What to do while wearing PPE:

Avoid touching any part of your PPE or adjusting it again and again.

Remove torn or damaged gloves and replace with new ones.

Change gloves when switching from one patient to the next.

Perform hand hygiene before wearing new gloves.

If impermeable gowns are not available, an alternative can be to place a waterproof apron over the gown.

Use double gloves if any strenuous activity or tasks need to be carried out in which contact with blood or any body fluids might be anticipated (e.g. carrying a patient or handling a dead body).

Use heavy-duty/rubber gloves for environmental cleaning and waste management.

How to take off PPE

Always remove PPE under the supervision of a trained observer. It is imperative to make sure that containers for infectious waste are available in the doffing area for safe disposal of PPE. Separate containers should be available for reusable items.

Perform hand hygiene on gloved hands.

Remove apron while leaning forward and take care to avoid contaminating your hands.

Carry out hand hygiene again on gloved hands.

Take off the outer pair of gloves and safely dispose of it.

To remove the gown, untie the knot first, then pull from back to front, rolling it from inside to outside, and disposing of it safely.

Remove eye protection by tugging the string from behind the head and disposing of it safely.

Take off gloves carefully, using the right technique, and throw them away safely.

Perform hand hygiene.

Critical supply shortages

Medical facilities of all kinds are reporting that most of their remaining supplies will run out within a week or two. PPE shortages are currently posing a tremendous challenge to the healthcare system because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Healthcare facilities are facing difficulty in accessing the needed PPE and have to identify alternative ways to provide safe patient care.

Disposal of PPE

Gloves, masks, shoe protectors, and overalls can be disposed of in general waste as long as they are not contaminated with free-flowing blood. This includes dripping, flowing, or oozing blood and even that which can be squeezed out from a sodden garment. Items contaminated with free-flowing blood need to be carefully dumped into a clinical waste bin.

PPE that is single-use should be disposed of in a plastic bag and into the general waste.

Use bags that are marked or colored for infectious waste. This includes orange, red, or yellow bags (or signs), and text or symbols indicating the bag contains hazardous waste for treatment or incineration.

Due to shortages, medical equipment is not readily available. Shifa4U provides online healthcare, pharmacy, and doctor consultations, so people do not need to go out of the house unnecessarily. All that you have to do is call on the given number or go to the web application to order the required medical service.

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Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.