EB: There are safe ways to reuse personal protective equipment (PPE). There is guidance on how to do this safely as well as what the current research indicates. Please take some time to review this link and learn more.
TT: It is okay for the hospital to reuse PPE. Because of the global shortage of PPE, the WHO and CDC have released recommendations that it is acceptable to reuse PPE. It is important to note that PPE and manufacturers have made a disclaimer that PPEs do not guarantee you protection against a specific disease. The FDA does not do studies on performance evaluation of each PPE against viruses such as COVID-19 or flu.
If a PPE does provide protection against a specific disease, the PPE label will make that claim. The purpose of having the PPE is to serve as a “non-disease specific barrier” to body fluids, solids, airborne particles, or other substances (FDA, 2020). This claim was made directly on the FDA website.
NIOSH does research on N95 filtering face-piece respirators. You can learn more about the National Personal Protective Laboratory here.
Nurses are at the frontline of this pandemic, but as a nurse, it is important to not overreact. Nurses will need to be mindful of which procedures (i.e., intubation, extubation, open suctioning, manual ventilation before intubation, turning patients to the prone position, disconnecting the patient from the ventilator) could generate aerosols.
Note airborne transmission of COVID-19 during these procedures is a possibility. If you are near a clinician doing a particular procedure such as intubating or extubating a COVID-19 patient or you interact with a patient that is infected with TB, then it is recommended the nurse or clinician should use a fitted N-95 respirator. Keep in mind that we do not know what is the exact transmission of COVID-19 when these procedures are performed.
During these times when PPE shortages are apparent, clinicians should exercise caution. There will be vendors that will sell gowns, face masks, N95 respirators, and PPEs that are not FDA-approved. To check if your PPE is FDA-approved, you can visit this site.
The purpose of the FDA site below is to “demonstrate that the device to be marketed is as safe and effective, that is, substantially equivalent, to a legally marketed device.” I have provided an example using FXX to find all the FDA-approved surgical masks that nurses and providers should be using. If you don’t know the specific code of the PPE, you can use the specific codes below:
- Surgical masks (FXX)
- Surgical mask with antimicrobial/antiviral agent (OUK)
- Pediatric/child facemask (OXZ)
- Surgical gowns (FYA)
- Isolation gowns and surgical apparel accessories (FYC, LYU, OEA)
- Surgical suits (FXO)
Here are screenshots of how to look for an FDA-approved PPE such as surgical masks: