Your Guide to Isolation Gowns: Proper Use, Storage, and More

The novel coronavirus has cast a spotlight on personal protective equipment (PPE). In healthcare settings, an isolation gown is a critical device. 

It can help to prevent the spread of Covid-19. It’s vital to understand more about this essential piece of equipment and how to make PPE supplies last. 

Reusable isolation gowns help healthcare professionals stretch much-needed personal protective equipment. They’re also an eco-friendly alternative to disposable gear. They lessen the impact on the environment.  

Reusable gowns reduce energy consumption. They also lower greenhouse emissions and solid waste. 

PPE and the Coronavirus 

PPE protects healthcare professionals, patients, and society. They prevent healthcare workers from encountering infectious diseases. PPE also protects workers from toxic medications and other dangerous substances. 

Healthcare facilities now have difficulty acquiring equipment for medical personnel. The current pandemic has created a severe shortage of PPE supplies. 

As a result, healthcare leaders have turned to reusable PPE. It increases the life cycle of protective equipment that’s available for staff. 

In the current environment, healthcare leaders must work together with health agencies.  Collaboration can help health care execs find ways to extend the life cycle of needed PPE supplies. 

Training is also essential to ensure the maximum lifecycle of protective equipment. Healthcare leaders must train personnel in the proper dawning, offing, and use of PPE. 

Because of the PPE shortage, the FDA has authorized the reuse of approved equipment. However, healthcare providers must comply with standards for use and cleaning. 

Types of Gowns 

A surgical gown is a PPE that’s warm by healthcare professionals during a surgical procedure. It protects patients and personnel from the transfer of body fluids and microorganisms. For staff, it protects the critical zones of the body.  

Critical zones include the front of the body from the knees to the shoulders. They also include the areas from the wrists to the shoulders. 

Healthcare professionals use a surgical isolation gown when there is a medium to high contamination risk. In this scenario, the entire body is considered a protection zone, except for the cuffs, bindings, and hems. 

A nonsurgical down is suitable to protect staff from the transfer of contaminants and fluids. However, team members should only use this gown in situations where there are minimal chances of transference. It’s essential not to use a nonsurgical gown during surgical or invasive procedures, or if there’s a medium to high contamination risk. 

PPE garment labeling should show that a product is tested and meets performance standards for its intended use. See the American Society for Testing and Materials: Book of Standards (ASTM) F2407 for more information. 

Medical gowns are part of overarching infection control practices. Respirators and gloves are also a part of that strategy.  

Manufacturers may use different names for their PPE gown. They may call them isolation gowns, procedure gowns, or cover gowns. 

Despite the name, healthcare leaders and users of PPE equipment must look for labeling that describes intended use.  Also, the FDA outlines best-practices for using PPE. 

Maximize the Effectiveness and Life Cycle of Isolation Gowns 

Medical personnel should always perform hand hygiene before donning and after doffing PPE gear. 

They must always wear a sterile gown if they might come in contact with blood or fluids. Also, PPE is always necessary when performing surgical or invasive treatment. 

Healthcare personnel should secure their gown at the base of the neck and the waist or as alternatively intended by the manufacturer. It’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for wearing PPE gear. 

When donning PPE, it’s vital that the gown completely covers healthcare workers’ clothing front to back. It’s also crucial that the gown fits snugly around workers’ wrists. Personnel should pull gloves over their cuffs. 

When doffing, or removing a gown, personnel should remove the gown slowly and roll it inside out away from their body. This procedure will keep a contaminated front or sleeves inside the bundle. 

When doffing PPE, medical personnel should do so in the patient’s room or a designated changing area outside of the patient’s room. Next, staff members should dispose of a contaminated gown in a designated laundry receptacle. 

Making PPE Gear Last Through the Surge 

Usually, manufacturers make reusable gowns with polyester or a polyester-cotton blend. You can launder this kind of PPE gear using routine procedures. Still, it’s important to emphasize to medical personnel that they should not touch the outer surfaces of their sterile gown. 

You may have to augment the washing of PPE equipment to ensure that employees have sufficient supplies. If so, it’s essential to establish an ongoing system to inspect and maintain PPE supplies for issues, such as holes or damaged or missing fasteners. Once gowns become thin or ripped, they’ve reached the end of their life cycle. 

Most medical gowns do not have an expiration date. However, medical supervisors need to know the designated shelf life of PPE to ensure personnel safety. If there is no expiration date on the gown, healthcare leaders should contact the manufacturer. 

Storing Isolation Gowns to Maximize Lifecycle

Disposable and reusable gowns provide equivalent levels of protection. However, a disposal gown is only suitable for single-use, while a reusable isolation gown lasts for approximately 64 washes. 

Currently, healthcare facilities face numerous financial and legal obstacles. Reusable isolation gowns not only lessen the burden of the current PPE shortage. They’re also more cost-effective and less harmful to the environment. 

Unfortunately, many patients contract infections while receiving care in a hospital. A significant percentage of these patients die because of those infections. PPA helps to reduce the number of contaminants that healthcare workers transfer to patients. 

An isolation station is a safe and effective tool for storing PPE equipment and ensuring that it stays sterile until needed. They’re also ideal for the current surge where space is at a premium. You can easily have an isolation station installed in a small area. 

Isolation stations can help bolster your organization’s efforts to prevent the spread of disease. They can also help you to ensure that medical employees have PPE equipment when it’s needed the most. 

Beware of Gray Market Goods 

No matter what the circumstance, scammers will exploit a situation to their advantage. The Covid-19 pandemic is no exception.

A gray market has emerged for personal protective equipment due to the demand created by the pandemic. A gray market is a supply channel that is not authorized or intended for use as designated by the manufacturer. 

This kind of supply channel typically pops up when supplies are short in any field. Opportunists will buy up goods or create counterfeit products and sell them for the highest price possible. In some instances, gray market operators have offered essential PPE for as much as 50 times the fair market rate. 

The last thing that healthcare professionals should worry about is whether their PPE gear is authentic and safe. Accordingly, healthcare leaders must remain wary of scams when ordering PPE. 

Exercising Caution When Buying PPE

In a worst-case scenario, a gray market operator won’t even provide a good. They’ll simply take your payment and disappear. 

In other situations, a gray market operator will use the same certification to validate an excessive number of PPE. Alternatively, the operator may suggest they have an infinite supply of equipment. 

Another unfortunate situation arises when operators provide substandard goods. In this instance, your healthcare personnel might as well wear no protective gear at all. 

It’s always a good idea to check the background of a potential supplier. In some cases, a simple Google Map search will reveal a gray market operator doing business from home. 

When buying PPE, always research a potential supplier. Also, ask suppliers to send samples so that you can validate the authenticity of the product with the manufacturer. If you’re unsure of the integrity of a supplier, you may want to place institutional funds in escrow until you’ve had time to receive and inspect the shipment.