Study: Improper Personal Protective Equipment Practices Spread Contamination

A new study shows that when healthcare workers do not properly remove their personal protective equipment (PPE), the likelihood of bacterial contamination increases significantly.

The study was performed at a tertiary-care teaching hospital. Researchers monitored and evaluated samples taken from 125 healthcare workers — mostly nurses or physicians — in four adult intensive care units caring for patients colonized or infected with a multi-drug resistant organism (MDRO), according to a Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) news release.

The study's results were published in SHEA's Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology journal. Findings included the following:

Nearly 40% percent of workers made errors in removing their PPE, including gowns and gloves, when evaluated by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. This was despite the fact that, as the release notes, a significant majority of the workers had undergone training on appropriate methods for donning and doffing PPE within the past five years.

  • Following patient contact, 36% of workers were contaminated with an MDRO.

  • After removing PPE, more than 10% were contaminated on their hands, clothing or equipment.

  • Workers who made multiple PPE-removal errors were more likely to be contaminated after a patient encounter.

"Based on these findings, we should reevaluate strategies for removing PPE, as well as how often healthcare workers are trained on these methods," said Dr. Koh Okamoto, a lead author of the study, in the release. "An intervention as simple as education about appropriate doffing of PPE may reduce healthcare worker contamination with MDROs."