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Understanding routine (non-outbreak) respiratory protective equipment behaviour of hospital workers in different clinical settings - lessons for the future post COVID-19.

BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the importance of facial (respiratory and eye) protective equipment (FPE). Optimal use of FPE in non-outbreak situations, will enable frontline staff, such as emergency department (ED) clinicians, to adapt more rapidly and safely to the increased demands and skills required during an infectious disease outbreak.

METHODS: A survey, designed to determine the attitudes, beliefs and knowledge of HCWs around the use of FPE for protection against respiratory infections, was distributed to staff in a respiratory ward, an adult ED and a paediatric ED in Sydney, Australia prior to COVID-19.

RESULTS: The survey revealed differences between the respiratory ward and the EDs and between professional groups. ED staff, particularly paediatric clinicians, were less likely than ward staff to use FPE appropriately during routine care. Medical staff were more likely to work outside of IPC policies.

DISCUSSION: The busy, relatively chaotic ED environment presents unique challenges for optimal compliance with safe FPE use when caring for patients with respiratory symptoms.

CONCLUSIONS: Building upon the lessons of the pandemic, it is timely to address the specific infection prevention and control needs of the ED environment to improve FPE compliance during non-outbreak situations.

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