Why is PPE in nursing important?
Importance of Personal Protective Equipments in Nursing
PPE or personal protective equipment is a set of essential safety gear that is used for protection from industrial hazards. PPE, which was once used majorly in industries, entered into the day-to-day lives. For example, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, respirators or surgical face masks were made compulsory for everyone. The term PPE became a household term after the COVID-19 pandemic. It is well-known that the healthcare industry widely uses PPE, and this means that PPE in nursing has become obvious.
The Role of PPE in Healthcare
The field of healthcare involves several occupational hazards. The risk level increases during epidemics and pandemics. Healthcare employees are always at risk with pathogens and infected bodily fluids. This means that they need a reliable shield that can protect them from these potential hazards.
PPE plays the role of the shield between the external environment and the human body. Thus, PPE plays a major role in protecting these individuals. The PPE includes surgical face masks, respirators, coveralls, safety gloves, face shields, and many more. Depending upon the type of PPE, different parts of the human body can be protected. In this article, we would be discussing specifically the role of PPE in nursing.
The Role of PPE in Nursing
Nurses are part of the major workforce in the healthcare industry. As they are in close contact with the patients, they are at high risk. An article about time spent by healthcare workers in ICU was published in 2018, which presented the fact that nurses spent the most time and shared space with patients. This was no surprise and the article provided enough support to it. This increases the need for PPE in nursing.
PPE such as respirators, medical face masks, safety examination gloves, safety goggles, face shields, and other equipment plays a vital role in protecting individuals from pathogens as well as bodily fluids such as blood, sweat, and saliva droplets. Proper PPE in nursing is even more essential as nurses spend most of their time with the patients. So, to ensure that nurses are safe while protecting and caring for the patients, appropriate PPE gear (along with training) is necessary.
Curious ones can check out our blog on PPE for droplet precaution.
Why is it important to understand the role of PPE in nursing?
According to WHO modeling, the international demand for safety goggles is approximately 1.6 million units every month. Similarly, the figures for examination safety gloves and medical masks are 76 million and 87 million respectively. This clearly shows why there was a lack of PPE in the healthcare industry, especially PPE for nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to an article about PPE shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic published in 2020, clearly stated that 87% of nurses had to reuse their single-use surgical face mask or respirator due to a shortage of PPE. Moreover, the article also mentioned that 27% of nurses were exposed to the COVID-19 patients without appropriate PPE. This happened due to a lack of estimation about the role of PPE in nursing. Due to the lack of understanding about PPE in nursing, the estimation was lopsided during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more details, check out our article on PPE for COVID-19.
Importance of PPE in nursing
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is the US government agency that provides directives about industrial hazards and safety. It has been forefront in emphasizing the role of PPE in nursing facilities and healthcare institutions. PPE in nursing is essential not only for the nurses but also for the patients. There is a potential chance that a nurse can pass on the pathogens to the serving patients. This is avoided by the use of PPE.
As the nurses are completely at risk of transmitting as well as acquiring a disease, PPE in nursing involves several types of equipment that protect various body parts. The selection of PPE in nursing involves understanding the types of occupational hazards, external environment, and personal factors (like allergies). Accordingly, the right selection of PPE must be done considering PPE factors like efficiency and durability. For example, during surgeries, nurses usually don disposable PPE gear that provides high efficiency.
Types of PPE in nursing
There are four major types of protection required for PPE in nursing. Based on these types of protection, different types of equipment are used for PPE in nursing. For the protection of the respiratory system, surgical face masks and respirators are used. While safety gloves are used to protect the hands. Coveralls or PPE gowns are donned to protect the body. Safety goggles or face shields can be used to protect the eyes.
Respiratory protection: Most of the pathogens enter the human body via the respiratory system. To safeguard the respiratory system from these notorious micro-organisms, respiratory PPE like face masks and respirators are used. This PPE covers the nose and mouth and filters out these pathogens, which further prevents their entry. PPE in nursing requires high efficiency of protection. So, N95 respirators or surgical face masks are recommended. These respiratory PPE were in high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hand protection: Safety gloves are widely used as PPE in nursing when interacting with patients. Hand protection PPE also ensures that the wounds or injuries of the patients are not contaminated. There are different types of gloves depending upon the application. Examination gloves and surgical gloves are usually different. These gloves act as a barrier between human skin and the bodily fluids of patients. They ensure the safety of the nurses as well as the patients.
Eye protection: Nursing often involves close contact with the patients that may cause pathogens to look for a way in the human body. Eyes provide a lucrative way for these pathogens to enter the human body. Also, nurses are in contact with bodily fluids, which means that eye protection is essential. Safety goggles and face shields are prominently used for eye protection as PPE in nursing.
Body protection: It is important that the body and clothing of the nurse are not directly exposed to bodily fluids. For this, body coveralls and PPE gowns are used. Body protection PPE ensures the safety of the nurses as well as the patients. Moreover, shoe covers are also used as PPE in nursing to avoid any contamination.
The Healthcare industry involves various occupational risks and hazards. This means that there should be proper protection for healthcare employees. Here, PPE plays a vital role in the healthcare industry. Due to the negligence about the role of PPE in nursing and healthcare, there was a scarcity of PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nonetheless, PPE in nursing is important for the safety of both the patient as well the nurse. Broadly classified, PPE in nursing involves four major types of protection which involves the protection of the body, eyes, respiratory, and hands. Nurses are provided appropriate training on selection, donning, and doffing of PPE as well.