ROANOKE, Va. — History and some opportunities have a way of repeating themselves. Today we are facing a similar problem to what hospitals faced back in 2009 with the H1N1 virus.

Several people have asked me to resubmit an earlier article I wrote about reusable isolation gowns. It is still a very timely topic and can be used as a blueprint to assist others in developing their own programs.

In Part 1, I shared about how history and opportunity repeat themselves when it comes to isolation gowns. In Part 2, I covered some of the issues we overcame. In the conclusion, I present how we trained personnel, rolled out the new program and the end results.

TRAINING, ROLL OUT, END RESULTS

We had two major fears as we were getting ready to start our program. We wanted to make sure we got the reusable barrier gowns returned to the laundry for reprocessing, and we wanted to make sure that the nurses were properly trained on how to tie the gowns so they could get out of them using a similar technique that they had become accustomed to with the disposable barrier gowns.

Working with a key nurse advocate (a nursing unit director) and the hospital training department, we developed an in-service program for the new reusable barrier gowns. The education piece included information about the environmental impact of switching from the disposable barrier gowns to the new reusable barrier gowns.

It also explained the quality-control system built into the process at the laundry. It detailed out the expected cost savings associated with moving to the new reusable barrier gowns. Finally, it addressed the best way to secure the gown at the neck to maintain proper gowning technique.

We started out with a 60-day trial on four units to determine the acceptance of the staff to the new reusable barrier isolation gown. We surveyed the staff at the end of both 30 and 60 days. The staff was pleasantly surprised by the gown and made the following comments:

  • The reusable barrier gowns had greater drapability and were easier to put on than the disposable barrier gowns.
  • The reusable barrier gowns were more comfortable to wear.
  • The staff felt like they were safer (less chance of a tear in a moist environment) than with the disposable barrier isolation gown.
  • The reusable barrier isolation gown packaging worked better in the over-the-door caddies than the disposable barrier isolation gowns.
  • The reusable barrier isolation gowns required less back-up storage space on the unit than the disposable barrier isolation gowns.
  • The nurses appreciated the positive environmental impact of the reusable barrier isolation gowns.

The initial study resulted in a full product approval from the infection control committee and the nursing product standardization committee. We developed a gradual roll out of the program, adding four more units every six weeks until the entire system was using the reusable barrier isolation gowns.

When we first started the program we were producing 1,500 reusable barrier isolation gowns per month for one or two departments. We went to averaging 87,000 gowns per month. The additional business and revenue were great for the laundry, and we reduced the cost of isolation gowns for the system by $300,000 per year.

Miss Part 1 on history and opportunity? Click HERE to read it. And click HERE to read Part 2 on packaging, distribution and quality control methods.