COVID-19: trust creates PPE safety officer role to support staff during pandemic

The appointed nurses ensure staff are properly protected when using PPE 

Kerry Holden, one of Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s 15 PPE safety officers
Picture: Twitter/@sphams

A trust has appointed nurses to a new personal protective equipment (PPE) safety officer role to support staff through the COVID-19 outbreak.

The role was introduced by Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in recognition of the fact that a high number of staff were not used to wearing PPE.

New PPE role will improve safe and effective use of equipment

The trust’s director of quality and chief nurse Steve Hams, who is also a PPE officer, told Nursing Standard that the role involves instructing clinical and non-clinical staff in putting on (donning) and taking off (doffing) PPE equipment properly.

‘I’ve looked at some of the evidence from the Ebola outbreak and it’s the doffing process that is the most important, when you take all the PPE off,’ he said.

‘If you don’t do it slowly enough and you don’t get it right, you could end up contaminating yourself.’

The PPE officers will also:

  • Order PPE equipment.
  • Help staff with hand hygiene.
  • Ensure social distancing is taking place in areas such as canteens.
  • Reassure staff about PPE supplies.

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Ensuring safety before the peak of the pandemic 

Since 21 March, the trust has appointed 15 PPE officers who are all either infection control nurses, corporate nurses or bank nurses.  

They often alternate between a PPE officer shift and a clinical shift, though clinical shifts will take priority as the pandemic worsens.

Professor Hams said the trust made the decision to introduce the role before the peak, so all staff felt safe in using PPE.

He said feedback from staff has been good ‘because they know they will be supported with their PPE’.

Northern Ireland promised boost to PPE supplies

Meanwhile, on 3 April, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said he has agreed with the Northern Ireland executive to provide five million items of PPE for the country.

It follows comments made by RCN Northern Ireland director Pat Cullen that nurses cannot legally treat COVID-19 patients without PPE.

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