Personal protective equipment (PPE) monitors can increase the efficiency of infection protection, found a study from members of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Medical Center’s (UNC-MC’s) infection prevention department. The study was published in the November 2021 issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

UNC-MC began using PPE monitors as part of its COVID-19 prevention strategy early in 2020. 

“We were aware based on the literature that it is very common for health care personnel to make errors while doffing their PPE, causing them to self-contaminate skin and clothing, and that PPE monitors can assist with this,” says Shelley Summerlin-Long, MPH, MSW, R.N., senior quality improvement leader for infection prevention at UNC-MC and lead author on the study. 

To ensure best practices were followed, the medical center developed a multidisciplinary group to train PPE monitors. Monitors received two hours of video- and web-based training based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Monitor trainees were then observed during a 12-hour shift to ensure competency. 

During the 10-month study period, UNC-MC admitted 1,427 COVID-19-positive patients within the high-risk containment zones. During that time, they experienced only two possible health care-associated COVID-19 transmissions. 

In addition to their impact on infection control, UNC-MC found that the availability of PPE monitors helped instill confidence in staff donning and doffing practices. In a housewide survey regarding staff members’ view of PPE monitors, 68% agreed or strongly agreed that “PPE monitors played an important role in keeping staff safe by preventing self-contamination during donning and doffing.” 

Only 13% disagreed, the majority of whom worked in areas where monitors were not always available.