Personal protective equipment (PPE) is special equipment you wear to create a barrier between you and germs.
This barrier reduces the chance of touching, being exposed to, and spreading germs.
Gloves are the most common type of PPE.
PPE helps prevent the spread of germs in the hospital. This helps protect patients and health care workers from infections.
All hospital staff, patients, and visitors should use PPE when working with blood or other body fluids.
Types of PPE
Wearing gloves protects your hands from germs and helps reduce the spread of germs.
Masks cover your mouth nose. Some masks have a see-through plastic part that covers your eyes.
A surgical mask helps stop germs from your nose and mouth from spreading. It can also keep you from breathing in some germs.
A special respiratory masks (respirator) forms a tight seal around your nose and mouth. It may be needed so that you do not breathe in small germs like tuberculosis.
Eye protection includes face shields and goggles. These protect the mucous membranes in your eyes from blood and other body fluids.
Clothing includes gowns, aprons, head covering, and shoe covers.
These are often used during surgery to protect you and the patient.
They are also used during surgery to protect you when you work with body fluids.
Visitors wear gowns if they are visiting a patient who is in isolation.
You may need special PPE when handling some cancer drugs. This equipment is called cytotoxic PPE.
You may need to wear a grown with long sleeves and elastic cuffs. This gown should not allow liquids to soak through.
You may also need to wear shoe covers, goggles, and special gloves.
Choose the Right PPE
You may need to use different PPE for different patients. Your workplace will have written instructions about when to wear PPE and what type of PPE to use. You will need PPE when you care for patients who are in isolation as well as other patients.
Ask your supervisor how you can learn more about protective equipment.
After You Use PPE
You will need to safely remove and dispose of PPE. This will help protect others from being exposed to any germs.
Before leaving your work area, remove all PPE and put it in the right place. This may include:
Special laundry containers that can be reused after cleaning
Special waste containers that are different from other waste containers
Specially marked bags for cytotoxic PPE
Infection control. In: Mills JE, ed. Nursing Procedures. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2004:chap 2.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.