During the COVID-19 pandemic, people found themselves caring for others who had been stricken with the disease. To avoid contracting the virus themselves, they used personal protection equipment (PPE) like surgical masks, surgical gowns, face shields, and medical gloves. But, unless they are medical professionals, they may not know how to handle these PPE items correctly, and mishandling them could render them useless. This guide will help you put on your surgical gown correctly, take it off correctly, and dispose of it properly.
Putting Your Surgical Gown On
Believe it or not, there is a correct and incorrect way to put your surgical gown on. You don’t want to inadvertently contaminate it before you even use it for its intended purpose because that defeats the entire reason for your using it in the first place. Follow these steps to ensure your gown is worn properly.
- Step 1: Wash your hands thoroughly
- Step 2: Handle the gown by the neck and allow the gown to naturally unfold. Most of the time, the gown will naturally fall open from the neck down, but if it doesn’t, you may need to use a fast, downward snapping motion to get it to entirely unfold.
- Step 3: Insert your arms into the sleeves and your hands into the thumb loop elastic cuffs.
- Step 4: Pull the gown over your head and allow the gown to fall over your clothing. It should not be oversized, but instead, should fit snugly around your body, covering your clothes. It should be long enough to fully cover your torso and your arms.
- Step 5: Secure the gown according to manufacturer instructions. Most disposable gowns open at the back and have ties to secure the gown to your body.
The most common type of surgical gown is the disposable gown that opens in the back so that it can be removed quickly without contaminating the person who was wearing it. They are designed to be easy to put on, but you still have to take care not to contaminate the gown in the process.
Removing Your Surgical Gown
Just as you don’t want to contaminate the gown before you put it on, you don’t want to contaminate yourself when you take it off. Keep in mind that your gown will likely be covered by potentially dangerous fluids, including blood. Since blood is a biohazard, you can’t just take off your gown like you would any other article of clothing. Follow these steps to remove your gown properly and avoid contamination.
- Step 1: Wash your hands vigorously, scrubbing them to remove any contaminants. You may also want to put on surgical gloves before removing your gown to avoid contaminating your hands once you’ve washed them.
- Step 2: Pull down on the disposable gown’s neck to break the neck closure. This will loosen the gown around your torso, making it easier to remove.
- Step 3: Untie the gown at the back to release the gown at your waist.
- Step 4: Pull one arm at a time slowly out of each sleeve, bunching the sleeve at your wrist. Roll the sleeve inside out so that the potentially contaminated portion of the sleeve is on the inside of a bundle. Make sure no fluids escape the ball.
- Step 5: Once your arms are out of the gown and you have two balls of fabric that contain the sleeves, gather the rest of the gown into an inside-out ball with the sleeves folded into the middle of the larger gown bundle.
- Step 6: Dispose of the gown according to the facility’s guidelines. Some facilities will have a specific place where surgical gowns must be disposed of, but others will only want you to ensure they are thrown away in a hazardous waste bin. If you are not using a disposable gown, follow the facility’s rules for laundering soiled gowns.
Additional Surgical Gown Guidelines
If you are caring for a COVID-positive patient, you should put on a new disposable gown every time you come in contact with them. You should also remove your gown and properly dispose of it whenever you leave the patient’s room. This is to prevent contaminating other areas of your home (if you’re caring for them in your home) or facility. You should never wear a contaminated gown twice unless you’re using a non-disposable gown that has been properly laundered between uses.
Additionally, you should ensure that you are properly disposing of contaminated gowns if you are caring for a COVID-positive patient in your home or non-medical facility. You won’t automatically have protocols in place for gown disposal, so you’ll want to create a process for that to ensure contaminated gowns aren’t left lying around.
With the shortage of medical professionals during the pandemic, people who aren’t medically trained have found themselves caring for patients who have contracted COVID. This has resulted in a crash course on PPE-handling protocols. Learning how to properly wear, remove, and dispose of surgical gowns can ensure you stay safe when caring for your loved ones.