Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Dianna Benson is back for her monthly post discussing the different types of personal protective equipment healthcare professionals wear in different types of situations. As a writer, these will help you write authentically.

As an EMT, a Haz-Mat-Operative, and a FEMA Mass Casualty Incident Operative, PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is vital to my safety and health. At a bare minimum, I wear medical gloves and wash my hands post removing those gloves. At a maximum, I wear my bio hazard suit, head to boot, complete with full face respirator, air tank and haz-mat outer gloves.

Depending on the type of EMS call and the situation, I could wear one, all, or a combination of the following PPE: long armed and legged paper gown, plastic face shield, plastic eye goggles, a HEPA or N95 (mouth and nose surgical mask), and a helmet. In a MVC (motor vehicle collision) I wear a bright yellow traffic vest stamped with EMS on the back. If I need to climb inside a damaged vehicle on scene to medically examine, assess, and treat a patient as well as help extricate them onto a backboard and stretcher, I wear my turn out gear: heavy thick pants, coat and gloves over my EMS uniform and medical gloves, plus I wear a helmet with a thick plastic face shield and I slip the yellow traffic vest over the coat.

If I have a blood borne pathogen exposure via a contaminated needle or a patient’s mucous membranes, blood, urine, vomitus, feces, etc. or an airborne pathogen exposure, I immediately contact my district chief 24/7. Within minutes, my district chief will inform theEMS medical team and they will advise me on how to proceed in seeking medical care for myself.
Never in the history of EMS, fire or law enforcement have any of us contracted HIV while performing our duties due to the fact the HIV virus dies once it’s exposed to either air or light. Hepatitis C and MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) are two diseases I’m concerned about contracting from a patient. Unlike Hepatitis A and B (both of which I was vaccinated against before my first EMS shift back in 2005) there currently is no Hepatitis C vaccination. Along with about most of the rest of the world, I probably already have MRSA cells in my system and they’ll never cause me any harm, but if I do become systematic with MRSA, it could be an arduous process to heal or I may never heal. However, I just follow PPE guidelines and leave it in God’s hands.
On the start of my every shift, I attach my tiny blue plastic name plate to the ceiling of my ambulance via Velcro. The name plate says: D. Benson. This name plate is mostly for a MCI (Mass Casualty Incident) or a structure fire, but can be helpful in any situation and is used for the following reason: When I enter a scene, my name plate will inform all other rescue personnel, especially EMS, who exactly went into a structure or scene without anyone having to waste precious time researching that information.
Can you think of specific situations where I’d wear certain equipment? Hint: A long armed and legged paper gown I’d wear when I deliver a baby.

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