What are Healthcare Workers Failing to Protect in the Workplace?

As healthcare workers strive to assist patients in life-or-death situations, their services are vital to the communities, cities, states, and nations that they support.  Unfortunately, nearly half of these workers demonstrate improper techniques in protecting themselves.  What are the statistics? How can we help?

The Respirator Use Evaluation in Acute Care Hospitals (REACH II) Study

Conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the REACH II Study of medical professionals across the nation looked at the respiratory safety and standards of these workers and their adherence to the guidelines.  This study, covering 96 hospitals in 6 states, surveyed over 1,500 medical professionals and studied 300 on their ability to don and doff (Put on, Take Off, Respectively) respirators in situations that commonly occur in hospitals.

In order to determine knowledge and use, healthcare workers (HCWs) were given 6 situations based on the type of precaution (airborne, droplet, or seasonal influenza), and task (close patient contact or aerosol-generating procedure).  Situations are as follows:

Workplace Respiratory Safety

Respiratory Safety in the Workplace

Workplace Respiratory Safety and Standards

(Images via CDC)

Please Note: In most healthcare settings, close contact means that a HCW is within 6 to 10 feet of a potentially infectious patient. In particular, aerosol-generating procedures, including bronchoscopies or endotracheal intubations, can be hazardous for HCWs because they promote the production of sprays or mists that may contain infectious agents.

REACH II Results

Although many of these workers knew the correct procedures for patients with suspected or confirmed droplet precautions, very few could accurately plan for scenarios involving airborne precautions or seasonal influenza.  Specifically,

  • 45% used incorrect strap placement
  • 85% did not perform a seal check
  • 57% did not use straps during doffing
  • 45% used incorrect respirator disposal methods

Why is this important? If these workers continue to incorrectly use improper methods of respiratory protection, they are placing themselves and their hospitals at risk. As an occupational health specialist, Nova Medical Centers hopes this information will assist you in protecting yourself and your employees in the hospital environment.

Please share this study with your colleagues in the occupational health and medical fields. You could save a life.

Related Resources

Proper Respirator Use

7 Industries that Put Employees at Risk for Respiratory Problems

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