Experiences of wearing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) from a medical practitioner's professional perspective
Author: Dr Natalya Fox (medical practitioner), Registrar - Acute Medicine
3. Personal Impact of PPE
Wearing the PPE each day has given me both positive and negative feelings. On a positive note, the wider multidisciplinary team (MDT) has felt much closer and a tight-knit community as we are all dressed alike and on an equal footing. This can make it harder for patients to recognise the job role of individuals however, as we are no longer identifiable by “uniform” and often name badges are hidden under PPE. It can also be very hot, sweaty and claustrophobic particularly over the face when wearing a mask almost all the time. It has led to my colleagues and me suffering from greasier skin and acne, and at the end of the day you certainly feel like you need a good scrub in the shower as soon as you get home!
I would recommend having a name badge and ideally photo visible over the top of PPE where possible (if plastic or similar it can be cleaned as required) to help patients and colleagues identify you and your role, as it adds a nice personal touch. Also, ensure you and your colleagues have regular breaks to go to the toilet and at the same time always have a large gulp of water/refreshments. It can also be nice to carry some facial wipes in your bag to allow you to freshen up at break times.
When in close proximity to patients with known or suspected COVID, once in the adequate PPE, it gives you a sense of confidence treating them with the same thorough approach as you normally would when not having to wear PPE. I also think that as a healthcare professional, there is an innate sense of invincibility when your natural gut kicks in to rush and help patients, without second thought for your own protection. Most of us have to be reminded by colleagues regularly to gown up appropriately or wait until we are fully equipped before rushing to help a patient when they are acutely unwell if they have suspected COVID, as it goes against our instincts and training to protect ourselves above our patients' needs.
A final practical tip: if you’re wearing a tie mask then try to wear a hair cap to protect your hair and then tie the mask over the top, otherwise your hair will constantly get caught/pulled out each time you try to remove the tie masks! (Maybe more appropriate for those with longer hair.)