Quality & Patient Safety

Looking at the biggest problems with PPE

Patient Safety Monitor, February 22, 2017

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The failure of workers to comply with PPE guidance is a perennial issue in healthcare. While PPE protects workers from infection and harm, it also plays a key role in patient safety: It keeps employees from accidentally exposing patients to harmful chemicals and bacteria from around the facility. The risk of infection for patients and staff goes up every time someone forgets to wear gloves or enters the building wearing sandals.

“PPE does not remove the hazards; it protects the individual,” said Marjorie Quint-Bouzid, MPA, RN, vice president of patient care services, chief nursing officer, and emergency manager for Fort Washington (Maryland) Medical Center, in an interview with Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare. “Healthcare organizations must continue to attempt to mitigate potential hazardous situations or practices as the first line of defense.”

To learn more about commonly misused PPE, we spoke to two safety experts on the mistakes they see most often.

Dan Scungio, MT (ASCP), SLS, is the laboratory safety officer for the Sentara Healthcare system in Virginia.
1. Lab coats
Misuse: Types of misuse include not wearing coats, wearing a lab coat but not buttoning it up, rolling up the sleeves, wearing a cloth coat (rather than a liquid-resistant material), wearing a waist-length coat (rather than knee-length), and cutting into disposable coats to create coolness/ventilation. Any misuse described will cause a greater risk of exposure to chemicals and blood or body fluids.

Proper use: Lab coats must be worn closed (i.e., snapped) to prevent incidental splash of blood and other potentially infectious material from contacting the worker’s skin. Staff should wear lab coats only in the work area. They should not wear them during meal or rest breaks or in any public areas, such as the cafeteria, lobby, or gift shop. Laboratory workers should wear a traditional knee-length laboratory coat, long-sleeved with knitted cuffs. Lab coats may be reusable (requiring laundry processing) or disposable.

This is an excerpt from a member only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe to Patient Safety Monitor.

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