When performing work in care homes, whether they are residential care homes or nursing homes, staff need to protect themselves. Wearing an isolation gown is useful to cover their clothes and arm sleeves in a situation where they don’t need to be sterile.
Different requirements exist for intensive care wards and other situations where there is a higher risk of infection. However, in care homes, it isn’t required because no surgeries or serious medical procedures are being undertaken.
This represents an opportunity to switch from single-use isolation gowns to multiple-use ones. But is this a good idea?
The risk of spreading disease inside a care home is significant. Recent history has reminded us that people living close to each other may pose a health risk.
While a nursing home may choose to have staff wear scrubs or a uniform of some kind, that’s not always necessary if using high-quality PPE gowns. With durable gowns that provide full coverage, the staff are sufficiently protected and still have a free range of motion to perform their duties with confidence.
Not all reusable gowns will be safe to use. Some aren’t produced using quality materials, which leads to them wearing through or not creating an effective barrier for the clothes worn beneath them.
Reusable medical gowns must be made to be washable and still provide adequate protection for the wearer. Ideally, there should be a specification about how many times a gown can be safely washed before it is disposed of.
Expecting a gown to last forever isn’t sensible. Therefore, it’s comforting when a medical gown manufacturer or provider confirms the maximum number of washes before reuse is not advised. A figure of around 75 cycles is likely with better quality materials used for a gown; the number will vary between products.
Staying within these guidelines – and maybe even adding a margin of safety of 10-20% below the guidelines – makes them even safer.
It allows for heavier wash cycles or older washing machines being overly rough with the fabric during the washing cycle too.
A medical gown with a Level 2 isolation is a good choice for care homes and other situations where the medical procedures are minimal.
Activities such as drawing blood to test for disease or helping the resident to wash don’t require a higher level of protection to be safe.
At Level 2, the gown should prevent fluids from penetrating the gown’s fabric to the clothes beneath. A lesser-rated gown may not do so.
Undoubtedly, there are cost savings to be had when switching to reusable gowns instead of single-use ones.
For staff looking to stay safe in their job and avoid damaging their clothes, using Level 2 gowns will offer more effective protection against liquid splatter. This allows them to go about their job without as much concern.
Overall, there are strong arguments to switch at least some gowns worn in a care home to reusable ones. It allows time to test their effectiveness and reusability before making a full changeover.
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