By Joe Bryowsky, CCRN, RN Clinical Nurse Manager
The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is a strong component of any hospital’s safety and infection control plans. Besides frequent hand washing, the use of PPE is a major factor contributing to the safety of both healthcare workers and patients.
What is Personal Protective Equipment?
PPE is regarded as any equipment or clothing worn by the healthcare worker for protection against infectious materials. PPE aids in protection against coming into contact with infectious agents or body fluids, which may contain an infectious agent, by creating a barrier between the healthcare worker and the potentially infectious material.
Types of PPE commonly used include:
- Masks (including N95)
- Eye protection (goggles, face shields) *
- Face protection
- Shoe covers
- Head covers
*Note: Prescription glasses do not provide adequate protection.
Types of PPE less commonly used include:
- Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR)
- Plastic aprons
- Cytotoxic PPE (for handling some cancer drugs)
Choosing the right PPE
All hospitals have written policies addressing which PPE to use in just about every circumstance. Always consult hospital policy and adhere to it strictly in order to protect yourself, patients, and co-workers.
Any healthcare worker also has the option to wear most types of PPE even if not required in a particular situation. There are many options as well as different circumstances for this. One example would be when hanging blood or blood products, or using a pressure bag with blood. Some nurses opt to not only wear gloves, but also add goggles and fluid resistant barrier gowns for further protection.
After using your PPE
Always be sure to safely remove and dispose of your PPE. This will prevent others from being exposed to any germs or toxins. Strictly follow your hospital’s policy on when to remove your PPE (inside the patient’s room versus outside, in a decontamination area, etc.) and put it in the proper place and receptacle. This information normally is also contained in the hospital’s policy.
For more information, visit the CDC website here.