The changing face of PPE

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Why scrubs aren’t enough anymore

The global pandemic has seen many changes in the lives of frontline workers. Working longer hours, being more understaffed than ever and extra personal protective equipment (PPE), are all things staff have had to adapt to. While nurses were once free to wear a standard set of scrubs (depending on their workplace regulations), uniform directives ramped up once COVID-19 hit, and healthcare workers weren’t as free to wear what they wanted.

Mandatory PPE was introduced to keep nurses and their patients protected, as well as strict laundering procedures after each shift.

 

What’s involved in the PPE process?

The pandemic introduced us to our new best friend - everyday use of heavy PPE. Where nurses used to come to work wearing scrubs and washing their hands before the beginning of a shift, they now are involved in a much larger routine – one that requires much more hand washing!

Donning of PPE before a shift is crucial for hygiene and protection. Depending on the area of work, healthcare workers must follow a similar process to the below:

  1. Hand hygiene – hands must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitised.
  2. Gown – protective gown is put on over scrubs.
  3. Mask – P2 or N95 respirator is fitted over mouth and nose.
  4. Eye protection – protective goggles and face shield are fitted to protect the eyes.
  5. Gloves – gloves are donned before entering the area of work.

A similar process follows for taking off this PPE, with extra sanitising after each phase.

 

How has the scrub laundering process changed?

Along with added PPE, the way healthcare workers care for their scrubs has become more intense. With nurses being potentially exposed to COVID-19 patients during their shifts, it’s crucial for strict laundering processes to be adhered to. Despite PPE covering scrubs, meticulous scrub washing at home is necessary and begins as soon as the healthcare worker finishes their shift. The Australian Nursing and Midwidery Foundation researched effective laundering methods for scrubs to reduce potential transmission of the virus. These methods include: 

  • Nurses should change out of their scrubs as soon as their shift ends and placed in a separate bag.
  • Washing at 60 degrees is best to allow for bacteria removal.
  • Scrubs should be washed in a cycle on their own to limit the spread of bacteria.
  • Once the cycle has finished, scrubs should be dried in a warm environment – either in a clothes dryer or hung on a line.   

 

Why we need more than scrubs

Scrubs are specially tailored for the medical field, so it seems strange that suddenly, they aren’t enough anymore. Although many scrub brands – such as Biz Care - provide general protection to healthcare workers, the contagious nature of the virus means the once casual nature of uniforms doesn’t provide adequate protection therefore, allowing for a much easier spread of disease. Biz Care have always offered a higher quality of scrubs, featuring protective, easy-care fabrics that undertake a rigorous quality control process. This process ensures the scrubs are of the highest quality and withstand the test of time and a global pandemic.

Wearing PPE means the virus isn’t transmitted as easily, as points of contact such as the eyes, nose, mouth, and hands are all covered. Limiting points of contact makes it more difficult for the virus to spread from person to person, which is why PPE is necessary.

Student nurse Molly MacKinnon spent time during the pandemic working on the frontline conducting COVID swabs, meaning she was at high risk of encountering people carrying the virus. “Swabbing people requires full PPE and to be in the correct ‘zone’,” she says. “A gown, gloves, n95 mask, shield, cap, theatre cap and sometimes booties need to be worn. When doing swabbing, you need to change your gloves and hand sanitise between patients. Depending on the organisation, you may even need to change your full PPE.”

Although the future of PPE and scrubs is largely unknown, it’s almost certain there will be an added element of caution when it comes to uniform policies in hospital and other healthcare settings. “I think changing the uniform and PPE process will improve infection prevention and control as more and more hospitals are moving to introduce scrubs as a standard uniform, which are much more practical to wash,” says Molly.

The PPE and scrub laundering process have changed – possibly forever – ensuring safer working conditions for nurses. It’s simply not enough to wear scrubs alone as the virus is spreading at rapid rates. The scrub laundering process has changed, with many scrub manufacturers allowing for higher washing temperatures to fight the bacteria each wash cycle. All Biz Care scrubs can be washed at 60 degrees with some even able to be washed at 90 degrees.

To learn more about scrubs and the manufacturing process, head to the Biz Care website.

 

The Australian Primary Health Care Association acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.


© Copyright 2021 Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA). All rights reserved. MRM by Bond Software.

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