A startling number of hospital workers are putting themselves and patients at risk of infection simply because they aren't putting on or taking off protective gear properly, according to a new study. Researchers asked hundreds of medical personnel in the Cleveland area, including many doctors and nurses, to touch a fluorescent lotion and then remove their gowns and gloves as they normally would, the Los Angeles Times reports. They discovered that the lotion, which simulated bacteria, ended up on the skin or clothes of the health workers 46% of the time, according to the study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal.
Lead researcher Dr. Curtis J. Donskey tells Reuters that workers were shocked to see how often they may have been contaminating themselves. "Most of the participants appeared to be unaware of the high risk for contamination and many reported receiving minimal or no training," he says, though even after training, 19% of the workers couldn't avoid contamination. The researchers say that to reduce risk, workers should receive better training in the removal of protective equipment and that the equipment itself should be redesigned, HealthDay reports. The Times notes since workers of anything other than average size had more trouble removing their equipment, it will help to offer gowns in different sizes. (Mold was blamed for two ICU deaths in a Pittsburgh hospital.)