By September 2020 our teams on the frontline of the pandemic had been wearing full PPE every day for nearly 6 months.
Most staff members were wearing this PPE for 8 hours a day but some for up to 12 or 13 hours at a time. The experience when using this amount of PPE was hard on our colleagues’ wellbeing. Skin damage was occurring on noses and cheeks and the way people had to breathe in the PPE was heavy and strained. Warm weather brought with it additional challenges when trying to keep people cool.
With the help of NHS Charities Together, Airedale Hospital & Community Charity was able to purchase 40 air flow hoods for our critical care team.
So what are the benefits and how has the provision helped?
The donning and doffing (the putting on and taking off) of normal PPE is intensive. Donning can take up to 15 minutes at a time and requires 2 people to be involved to safely equip just 1 person. The process for doffing includes the need to hand wash 3 times and also takes up to 15 minutes. It is worth noting that this time to put on and take off PPE is time taken away from clinical activity so this needed to be factored into patient care and rotas.
The difference in donning and doffing an air flow hood is tremendous. It takes 1 person just 3 minutes to put a hood on safely, meaning that staff members can react quickly in an emergency. The hoods are comfortable to wear and they blow filtered, cool air around the face, reducing the need for suction so there is no damage to nose or cheeks.
Another impact of wearing PPE is the increased difficulty in communicating both with colleagues and patients alike which hasa huge impact on patient care. The hoods have a clear plastic front so that the full face can be seen.
Within 25 minutes of Matron Nicky Denbow donning her air flow hood for the first time she had a remarkable experience;
“We had an elderly gentleman who was extremely hard of hearing and had been on our acute respiratory unit (ARCU) for 3 days. For those 3 days the only way of communicating with this gentleman was by writing on a whiteboard as he relied on lip reading to help him get by and he just couldn’t see anyone’s face behind their mask. When I went to see him with my air flow hood on he was able to see my face and for the first time during his stay he was able to have a conversation.”
“The ability for patients and their relatives to see our faces was never more important than when we were having end of life conversations. For patients and relatives to see our smile at such a distressing time means so much.”
The use of the air flow hoods has no doubt also been better for the environment by reducing the need for disposable PPE and clinical waste.
Finally, the impact on employee health and wellbeing is overwhelmingly positive. Every member of the team received their own hood which gave them a huge boost. The air flow hoods also made it easier for staff members to drink, therefore preventing dehydration and avoiding urinary tract infections.
Pictured; Nicky Denbow, Matron, Airedale NHS Foundation Trust