During the doffing of personal protective equipment (PPE), pathogens can be transferred from the PPE to the bodies of healthcare workers (HCWs), putting HCWs and patients at risk of exposure and infection. PPE doffing practices of HCWs who cared for patients with viral respiratory infections were observed at an acute care hospital from March 2017 to April 2018. A trained observer recorded doffing performance of HCWs inside the patient rooms using a pre-defined checklist based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guideline. Doffing practices were observed 162 times during care of 52 patients infected with respiratory viral pathogens. Out of the 52 patients, 30 were in droplet and contact isolation, 21 were in droplet isolation, and 1 was in contact isolation. Overall, 90% of observed doffing was incorrect, with respect to the doffing sequence, doffing technique, or use of appropriate PPE. Common errors were doffing gown from the front, removing face shield of the mask, and touching potentially contaminated surfaces and PPE during doffing. Deviations from the recommended PPE doffing protocol are common and can increase potential for contamination of the HCW's clothing or skin after providing care. There is a clear need to change the approach used to training HCWs in PPE doffing practices.
Keywords: Doffing; healthcare workers; infection prevention; personal protective equipment.