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New PPE Coach role helping to keep QHC safe

Before the pandemic hit, anyone who doesn’t work in health care may not have known what PPE is. But now, PPE (or personal protective equipment) has become a common term in society. PPE is what health care providers rely on to keep themselves safe. Whether it’s masks, gowns, goggles, face shields or gloves – our hospitals need plenty of it, and our frontline workers need to know how to properly use it.

To help frontline staff navigate the ever-evolving PPE guidelines for COVID-19, Quinte Health Care implemented PPE Coaches. With only a small (but mighty) Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) team at QHC, the PPE Coaches are frontline staff who have been trained by IPAC and are available to ensure staff, physicians, care partners and visitors are supported when making decisions about what PPE to wear and when and how to wear it. They also help to ensure there is appropriate access to PPE on the units.

So far, 12 PPE Coaches have been trained at Belleville General Hospital and are spread throughout various units – ICU, Emergency, Quinte 5, Quinte 6 and Lab.  More coaches will be trained in the coming weeks, including some at Trenton Memorial Hospital, North Hastings Hospital and Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital. The PPE Coaches also receive some training from Judy MacDougall, Manager of Organizational Development, to help hone their coaching skills.

“Giving or receiving feedback can feel uncomfortable, but when feedback is integrated into a respectful dialogue with mutual goals of learning, real change can happen,” said Judy. “The PPE Coaches are building bridges one conversation at a time and I deeply admire their leadership.”

Many of the PPE Coaches fulfil their coaching duties in addition to their normal clinical duties. For example, many of the coaches are nurses and will offer feedback to their teammates throughout their shift together. Allison Wendel, currently a modified worker, is the only PPE Coach fully dedicated to the coach role.

“It's rewarding to teach coworkers important information – some of which I was unaware until I was dedicated to this role,” said Allison. “My feedback isn't meant to be taken as judgement – people get busy and forget things – but it's about the safety of everyone at QHC and we want to do everything we can to keep staff and patients safe.”

Since October, more than 500 observations have been documented by PPE Coaches. About half of those observations resulted in a teaching opportunity. Some of the more common teaching moments include frontline staff forgetting to complete hand hygiene before donning PPE, an absence of gloves for tasks where they’re required, improper removal of PPE, and goggles being worn on tops of heads instead of on faces or safely stored for reuse.

“Everyone needs a friendly reminder once in a while,” said Sarah Corkey, Director of Quality and Interprofessional Practice. “The PPE Coach role supports the philosophy that we all have a role to play in keeping each other safe. Being able to provide and receive feedback are central to safe work environments and safe patient care – especially in our busy and changing environment. Kudos to our PPE Coaches for their interest in supporting their units and coworkers!”

QHC’s PPE Coaches were acknowledged by the Board of Directors with a ‘Values in Action’ award at their January board meeting, in recognition of all the great work they’re doing to keep QHC safe.

PPE Coach Allison Wendel is happy to teach and provide feedback to frontline staff about 
appropriate use of PPE and other infection control measures.

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