How many hours can a clinician wear PPE?

Research Area
COVID-19 has dramatically impacted on healthcare provision in emergency departments across the globe. Infection control measures are of paramount importance in our response to the pandemic. Precautions include isolation of patients with respiratory symptoms and methodical use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Patients are treated in a high-risk zone (HRZ) within the Emergency Department, with entry restricted to essential doctors and nurses, donned in personal protective equipment (PPE), who typically work 5-10 hour shifts.

PPE consists of level 4 or 5: gown, gloves, mask and protective eyewear. It traps body heat generated by physical activity, adding to cognitive and physical fatigue, and potential lapses in infection control precautions. Rationalising PPE use has led to clinicians working prolonged periods in PPE, with many taking less breaks than they would outside the HRZ.

This study will investigate the cognitive and physiological effects of wearing PPE for prolonged periods, and provide guidance as to the time a clinician can safely work in HRZ in one continuous shift. Recommendations will also be made for future Pandemic Plans so as to improve emergency healthcare beyond COVID-19.

Daniel Bodnar
Staff Specialist, Emergency and Trauma Centre
Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital

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