Introduction to Personal Protective Equipment

In healthcare, personal protective equipment (PPE) refers to specialized clothing or equipment, including gloves, gowns, facial protection (masks and eye protection), and respirators. PPE acts as a barrier to protect the healthcare provider from exposure to microorganisms, and can also be used to prevent the transmission of microorganisms from clients to staff, staff to clients, and staff to staff (Provincial Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee [PIDAC], 2012).

Certain pathogens and communicable diseases are easily transmitted and require additional precautions to interrupt the spread of suspected or identified agents to healthcare providers, other clients, and visitors (PIDAC, 2012). Additional precautions are used in addition to routine practices and are defined by how a microorganism is transmitted (Potter et al., 2019).


Points of Consideration: Point-of-Care Risk Assessment 

Point-of-care risk Assessment (PCRA) is the first step in routine practices. As such, healthcare providers should be doing this with all clients, for all care, at all times. It involves assessing the infection risk posed to themselves and others by a client, a procedure, or a situation. PPE is chosen based on that risk (Vancouver Coastal Health, 2017). Refer to Chapter 2 [insert hyperlink] for more information on risk assessment.

When Should PPE be Worn?

Routine practices and additional precautions involve wearing PPE. Pieces of PPE can be worn individually on their own or in combination. Deciding what PPE to be worn depends on the known infectious agent, mode of transmission, the type of care being provided to the client, and a point-of-care risk assessment which can assist the healthcare provider to determine which PPE is necessary for a given situation. PPE should be put on just prior to providing care for the client, removed when care for the client has been completed, and then discarded appropriately according to facility guidelines.

PPE should always be used only when required because overusing PPE can have consequences such as:

  • Impact on the quality of interactions between the healthcare provider and client.
  • Impact on cost and to the environment because of waste.
  • Healthcare providers may be less likely to perform hand hygiene when wearing gloves is not indicated (e.g., bathing, taking blood pressure).
  • Shortages of PPE which may result in increased transmission of microorganisms.

Healthcare settings are required to provide staff with adequate supplies of PPE that is easily accessible and readily available (PIDAC, 2012).


Clinical Tip


With respect to PPE, in your clinical placement you may hear terms such as “donning,” which means to apply or to put on, and “doffing,” which means to take off or remove.





This page was remixed with our own original content and adapted from: Clinical Procedures for Safer Patient Care — Thompson Rivers University Edition by Renée Anderson, Glynda Rees Doyle, and Jodie Anita McCutcheon is used under a CC BY 4.0 Licence. This book is an adaptation of Clinical Procedures of Safer Patient Care by Glynda Rees Doyle and Jodie Anita McCutcheon, which is under a CC BY 4.0 Licence. A full list of changes and additions made by Renée Anderson can be found in the About the Book section.


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Introduction to Infection Prevention and Control Practices for the Interprofessional Learner Copyright © by Michelle Hughes; Audrey Kenmir; Oona St-Amant; Caitlin Cosgrove; and Grace Sharpe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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