Healthcare workers’ perceptions of respiratory infection risk and use of protective masks in routine practice – a mixed methods study

Mrs Ruth Barratt RN, BSc, MAdvPrac (Hons), CICP-E1

1Reynard Health Supples, Artarmon, Australia

Introduction:

The optimal use of personal protective equipment by healthcare workers (HCWs) is an important infection prevention measure in limiting transmission of infectious disease. . This research aimed to explore the behaviour and decision making of HCWs in relation protective masks for infectious diseases during routine practice.

Background:

The optimal use of personal protective equipment by healthcare workers (HCWs) is an important infection prevention measure in limiting transmission of infectious disease. Recent respiratory outbreaks, including Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), were notable for hospital transmission and HCW disease acquisition. Appropriate mask use during routine care is a forerunner to best practice in an outbreak and limiting the part HCWs play in infection transmission as vectors or victims of respiratory infectious disease. This research aimed to explore the behaviour and decision making of HCWs in relation protective masks for infectious diseases during routine practice.

Methods:

A cross-sectional, mixed methods study was undertaken, using a survey and video-reflexive ethnography to collect data in an emergency department (ED) and respiratory ward in a 950-bed tertiary hospital in Western Sydney. Qualitative findings were analysed using a thematic approach.

Results:

The HCW perception of risk for respiratory infectious diseases and associated behaviour towards protective masks differs between clinical areas. There was notably less protective mask use in the ED compared to the ward. Factors that influence mask use include the working environment and unit culture around transmission-based precautions.

Conclusions:

Sub-optimal mask use in the emergency department may be a risk for healthcare transmission in the early stages of an emerging respiratory infectious disease outbreak and has implications for pandemic planning. Infection prevention and control isolation policies should consider differences between clinical contexts.


Biography:

Ruth Barratt is a registered nurse, quality advisor and researcher. She holds a Masters in Infection Prevention and Control and is credentialed at expert level through the ACIPC. Ruth has over 22 years of experience in this field across the private and public sector. Ruth has authored several IPC journal publications and represented infection prevention and control professionals on a number of Australasian committees and working parties. Ruth is currently studying for her PhD through the University of Sydney, with her research focus on personal protective equipment practice among clinicians

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