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Personal protective equipment (PPE) is unique clothing or equipment worn by an employee to minimize or prevent exposure to infectious agents. PPE creates a barrier between the employee and the infectious materials. PPE must be readily available in the patient care area. PPE includes gloves, gowns and aprons, masks and respirators, goggles, face shields, shoes, and headcovers:

  • Gloves protect the hands.
  • Gowns and aprons protect skin and clothing.
  • Masks protect the mouth and nose.
  • Respirators protect the respiratory tract from the airborne spread of infectious agents.
  • Goggles protect the eyes.
  • Face shields protect the face, mouth, nose, and eyes.
  • Shoes provide a barrier against possible exposure or contact with a contaminated environment.
  • Headcovers protect the hair and scalp from contamination, like sprays.

Three factors determine the selection of PPE. The first is predicted exposure, such as touch, splashes, or large volumes of blood or body fluids, and the category of isolation precautions. The second is the pertinence of the PPE. Third, PPE must be available in sizes appropriate for the workforce. It must fit the individual user. In addition, PPE should be put on or donned before contact with the patient, specifically before entering the patient's room.

Removing and disposing of all PPE carefully, except for the respirator, before exiting the patient's room is crucial. The respirator must be removed outside the room after the door is closed. After taking off or doffing the PPE, handwashing must be performed immediately.

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