Editor’s note: The following is an edited excerpt of an interview published in HealthLeaders.
During the coronavirus pandemic, there are ways that healthcare organizations can reuse or extend the life of some personal protection equipment (PPE), says Connie Steed, MSN, RN, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.
At this point in the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining adequate supplies of N95 respirator masks is the primary PPE supply chain challenge, says Steed, who is director of infection prevention and control at Prisma Health-Upstate in South Carolina.
“Where most facilities are having trouble is with the N95; so, we are trying as much as possible to limit its use; and when it is used, we extend its life when it is acceptable,” she says.
At Prisma Health, supplies of N95 respirators are being maximized through prioritization of use in the treatment of COVID-19 patients, Steed says. “It should be prioritized for aerosol generating procedures—that’s when you have droplets during the intubation or extubation of a patient, for example. You can put people in surgical masks and face shields for other care.”
Another option to conserve N95 respirators when treating COVID-19 patients is to use powered, air-purifying respirators (PAPRs), she says. “One of the things that some hospitals are doing is the use of the PAPR, which is a hood; and there has been discussion about the reuse of those hoods and using them instead of N95s. The PAPR’s level of protection is the same or higher than the N95.”
N95 respirators, face shields, and goggles are sturdy enough to reprocess after use with COVID-19 patients or patients suspected of coronavirus infection, Steed says.
Reprocessing requires a room designated for disinfection of PPE and other equipment. For N95 respirators, face shields, and goggles, she says two disinfection methods are currently being used across the country: hydrogen peroxide mist and/or ultraviolet light.