Patient Care

Improper Removal of Personal Protective Equipment Can Be Hazardous to Your Health


Clinical question: How frequent is contamination of skin and clothing during personal protective equipment (PPE) removal, and can it be prevented?

Background: PPE reduces transmission of pathogens to healthcare personnel and patients. However, improper removal can lead to contamination of the skin and clothing. Little information exists describing the frequency and sites of contamination after the removal of gloves or gowns.

Study design: Point prevalence study and quasi-experimental intervention.

Setting: Four northeast Ohio hospitals (university, community, county, and VA); intervention performed at VA hospital.

Synopsis: This study began with 435 glove and gown removal simulations performed at four northeast Ohio hospitals. Skin or clothing contamination occurred in 200 (46%) simulations, with similar frequencies across the four hospitals (42.5%–50.3%). Contamination occurred more frequently in the glove removal versus gown removal (52.9% versus 37.8%, P=0.002). Most common causes of contamination were gloves not covering the wrists, removing the gown over the head, donning gloves before the gown, and touching contaminated gloves.

The intervention, performed at the VA hospital, consisted of educational sessions, videos, demonstrations, and practice donning and doffing PPE, which resulted in reduced skin and clothing contamination (60% before versus 18.9% after, P<0.001) that was sustained at one and three months.

Given that the intervention was quasi-experimental and not randomized, it is difficult to attribute

causality to the intervention, and results must be interpreted with caution.

Bottom line: During the removal of gloves and gowns, skin and clothing contamination is frequent, and a simple educational intervention with visual feedback may reduce rates of contamination.

Citation: Tomas ME, Kundrapu S, Thota P, et al. Contamination of health care personnel during removal of personal protective equipment. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(12):1904-1910.

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