Way back in March 2020, when COVID-19 was new to Australia and we were working out how to ensure safety for our patients and staff, a new role was devised at Epworth HealthCare, that of “PPE Spotter”.
While some hospitals ask staff members to spot each other, Epworth has made this a dedicated role.
Tess Vawser, Director of Clinical Education and Simulation, said the safety of each staff member is essential during donning (putting on) and doffing (taking off) personal protective equipment (PPE).
“We formed a PPE taskforce and in the COVID-19 environment we saw the need to have someone to check, to supervise, to make sure everyone was doing the right thing. The spotter role is a specific role with important responsibilities,” Tess explained.
“We’ve always used some form of PPE to stop us transferring any germs from one patient to the next. But now, it’s incredibly important for our clinicians to protect themselves whilst treating patients.”
Those who work as spotters have an important task – to be a second set of eyes, watch their colleagues closely in putting on their PPE and ensure they don’t rush when taking PPE off.
“The most dangerous part for staff is the taking off of PPE – that’s when spotters will watch you like a hawk. You can’t touch the outside of the gown, mask and shield. You have to remove the gown only by the inside and then roll it away from you. Hand hygiene is performed at every step”.
Each of our isolation wards has three or four spotters, depending on the number of patients with COVID-19. In our Emergency Departments at Epworth Richmond and Epworth Geelong, while we have a dedicated spotter, everyone is trained to spot each other.
While the spotters on wards are nurses, Epworth has provided training for every discipline who is required to wear PPE every day, including environmental services staff.
Practical training has continued, both to refresh knowledge and to update everyone on ongoing changes to PPE requirements.
“Training reinforces confidence and also ensures competence,” Tess explained.
“Washable gowns, donated by Princes Laundry, are used for training, so we don’t have to use our PPE stockpile. Our amazing procurement team, who are part of Epworth’s PPE taskforce, have ensured we have a good supply of Australian-grade PPE for all those who need it.”