The improper use of personal protective equipment among healthcare workers is "pretty pervasive in all institutions," says a researcher.
Nine months after a Texas nurse contracted Ebola from a patient and a National Nurses United survey found that 85% of RNs reported they had not been adequately trained to protect themselves from infection, researchers find that training for healthcare workers using personal protective equipment remains lacking.
Less than half of healthcare workers observed at a large Midwestern health system correctly removed their personal protective equipment (PPE), putting themselves at risk for infection, according to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control.
Nasia Safdar, MD, PhD
"As a result of the recent Ebola virus outbreak, the critical issue of proper PPE removal has come front and center," says Nasia Safdar, MD, PhD, associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and associate chief of staff for research at the William S. Middleton VA Hospital, Madison, WI.
"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," she says.
Although the study included only healthcare workers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, it is likely that employees of other US healthcare facilities are also improperly removing their PPE. Safdar says she believes the practice is "pretty pervasive in all institutions."
The University of Chicago Medical Center's director of infection control agrees with Safdar, "People are contaminating themselves probably 50% of the time," says Sylvia Garcia-Houchins, RN, CIC.
"These breaches of PPE removal protocol may be due to a lack of awareness of the proper procedure, time constraints, or lack of realization of the importance of proper PPE removal," Safdar says.
Much of the problem stems from nurses, physicians, and other healthcare workers not being properly trained and then tested during their professional education, Garcia-Houchins says. "People modify the process for whatever works for them. Nobody is telling them this is the way it should be done." Orientation for new employees at the University of Chicago now includes training and testing for the proper donning and removal of PPE, adds Garcia-Houchins. "We are doing something about it."