The pandemic truly underlined the importance of personal protective equipment in healthcare, with several news stories surrounding the difficulties the UK government faced ensuring there was enough to go around all NHS hospitals.
PPE exists to protect both patients and staff, prevent the spread of disease or illness and ensure work environments are completely sterile. Simply put, without it the pandemic would have been even more deadly. But what PPE items should all healthcare environments ensure they have ready and waiting to be used at a moment’s notice?
In any situation where a member of staff’s hands might be in contact with bodily fluids of any sort, proper surgical gloves should always be used. These are disposable by design and must be removed as soon as the job is done. Of course, employees must also ensure they’re not allergic to latex before putting on these gloves. Though there are options made from different materials available if this is the case.
You’d be surprised how much can potentially be spread by our feet through the floor and this is why most staff serving in a healthcare environment will be asked to wear overshoes in certain environments. This might be considered overkill in certain environments but will be standard practice in surgical environments or situations where people have been placed in isolation. This is a form of PPE that many people were unaware of before 2020 but became more prevalent during the pandemic.
Face masks or shields
Speaking of the pandemic, it’s arguable that face masks and shields became one of the more divisive solutions, as many found it an inconvenience. The science, however, supports the fact that surgical masks and shields prevent infectious diseases from being spread orally. Of course, some particles will still get through most fabric masks, which is why shields and respirator masks were often used in more serious medical establishments. Today, face masks are worn constantly in almost all healthcare environments and we can’t see that changing anytime soon.
In any situation where contamination is likely, full-body gowns and fluid-resistant coveralls should be used. This is particularly relevant in surgical environments. As with gloves, they should be removed and disposed of as soon as the medical task in question has been completed.
Problems with PPE
Problems associated with PPE include items that might not fit staff members properly and administrators choosing the wrong PPE for the wrong situation. The most pressing concerns in the wake of the pandemic, however, are availability and cost. All healthcare providers must do everything within their power to push past these difficulties and ensure that the right PPE is available to all staff members at all times.