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Hospitals use standard and transmission-based precautions, including personal protective equipment (PPE), to prevent the spread of infectious organisms. However, little attention has been paid to the potentially unique challenges of various healthcare personnel (HCP) in following precaution practices.
From September through December 2016, 5 physicians, 5 nurses, and 4 physical therapists were shadowed for 1 hour 30 minutes to 3 hours 15 minutes at an academic medical center. Observers documented activities using unstructured field notes. Focus groups were conducted to better understand HCP perspectives about precautions and PPE-related challenges. Data were analyzed by comparing workflow and challenges (observed and stated) in precaution practices across HCP roles.
Precaution patients were interspersed throughout physician rounds, which covered a broad geographic range throughout the hospital. Patient encounters were generally brief, and appropriate use of gowns and cleaning of personal stethoscopes varied among observed physicians. Nurses were unit based and frequently entered/exited rooms. Frustration with donning/doffing was especially apparent when needing supplies while in a precaution room, which nurses acknowledged was a time when practice lapses could occur. The observed physical therapists worked in one geographic location, spent extended periods of time with patients, and noted that given their close physical contact with patients, gowns do not fully protect them.
Movement patterns, time with patients, care activities, and equipment use varied across HCP, leading to a diverse set of challenges in following precaution practices and PPE use. Attention to these differences among HCP is important for understanding and developing effective strategies to prevent the potential spread of infectious organisms.