Medical interns’ reflections on their training in use of personal protective equipment

The current COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential, to prevent the acquisition and transmission of infectious diseases, yet its use is often sub-optimal in the clinical setting. Training and education are important to ensure and sustain the safe and effective use of PPE by medical interns, but current methods are often inadequate in providing the relevant knowledge and skills. The purpose of this study was to explore medical graduates’ experiences of the use of PPE and identify opportunities for improvement in education and training programmes, to improve occupational and patient safety.

This study was undertaken in 2018 in a large tertiary-care teaching hospital in Sydney, Australia, to explore medical interns’ self-reported experiences of PPE use, at the beginning of their internship. Reflexive groups were conducted immediately after theoretical and practical PPE training, during hospital orientation. Transcripts of recorded discussions were analysed, using a thematic approach that drew on the COM-B (capability, opportunity, motivation – behaviour) framework for behaviour.

80% of 90 eligible graduates participated. Many interns had not previously received formal training in the specific skills required for optimal PPE use and had developed potentially unsafe habits. Their experiences as medical students in clinical areas contrasted sharply with recommended practice taught at hospital orientation and impacted on their ability to cultivate correct PPE use.

Undergraduate teaching should be consistent with best practice PPE use, and include practical training that embeds correct and safe practices.

Related Research Areas

  • Clinical research and infection prevention