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The Impact of PPE on Your Well-Being

A new study on the impact of PPE on healthcare professionals shows that the number and the variety of issues HCPs experience increases as their time wearing PPE without a break.

During the coronavirus pandemic, PPE has become a significant and necessary part of life. Shortages have made it essential to wear the same PPE for longer periods and sometimes repeat use.

Now, a new study analyzing the impact of PPE on healthcare professionals shows that the number and variety of issues HCPs experience as their time wearing PPE without a break increases. These issues range from tiredness and headaches in the first hour to nausea, vomiting, and dizziness as time spent in PPE continues.

Over two weeks in June 2020, researchers from the University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust, Bournemouth, surveyed 106 anesthesiologists, surgeons, and nurses in the United Kingdom. Respondents answered various questions about their use of PPE and their well-being as a result, as well as the perceived impact that PPE had on their and their team’s performance.

The average time spent in PPE was reported to be two to three hours by 43% of the respondents, and 10% spent four hours in PPE without a break. Two-thirds of all respondents reported that the longest period wearing PPE without a break was more than four hours; 82% experienced tiredness, 76% thirst and difficulty hearing, and 72% reported headaches. Only one person said they experienced no adverse symptoms from wearing PPE, and surgeons reported spending the least time in PPE and the lowest number of symptoms.

In addition, researchers asked respondents how they felt while wearing PPE and how they felt after a full day of doing so, using a 1-to-10 scale. With one being very uncomfortable and ten being very comfortable, 23% of staff rated their comfort level below three while wearing PPE. By the end of the day, this increased to 44% of respondents.

Of those surveyed, 92% felt that wearing enhanced PPE affected team performance. Two-thirds (65%) of respondents strongly agreed with the statement: ‘PPE affects the team’s performance.’ Various respondents also added extra comments to their survey responses concerning the quality of PPE and PPE, hampering communication and causing confusion and misunderstanding.

The bottom line is that PPE negatively impacts staff well-being and team performance. Luckily, much innovation is happening to improve the experience of wearing PPE, whether it is wearing cooling vests, creating respirators, or tools to facilitate better communication.

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