Strategies For Maintaining Your Isolation Gown PPE Supply
Disposable isolation gowns have long been a staple in dental practices before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, current supply chain shortages have put a strain on our normal dental vendors to provide our office with PPE that we need.
While some offices have been able to secure disposable isolation gowns in limited quantities, other offices have gowns on back-order. There are legitimate concerns that when office run out of gowns, they will no longer be able to order more supply.
This potential shortage has led to the CDC and FDA produced guides on conserving PPE supply. Both regulatory agencies address strategies to conserve isolation gowns.
A quick review of these two guides is recommended. Both the CDC and FDA recognize both the importance of full and proper PPE in our offices for both personal and professional safety. In our offices, doctors, clinical assistants, treatment coordinators, scheduling and billing coordinator, and even front receptionists are donning PPE.
5 Take-aways from the CDC and FDA Memos on Isolation Gown Preservation
Know Your Current Inventory, Supply Burn Rate, and Your Ability To Secure More Supply
Both strategies are created around a framework that describes surge capacity and is used to prioritize measures to conserve gown supply. In order to properly follow this framework you must understand your current inventory, your supply burn rate, and your ability to secure more supply from vendors. Once you understand these three aspects of your office, you can properly implement these strategies.
Extend the Use Of Your Isolation Gowns
Extending the use of your isolation gowns should be considered. It is currently acceptable for dentists and staff to continue to use the same gown across different patients as long as the gown is not visibly soiled. Both the CDC and FDA clearly state that this strategy is acceptable for patients with the same infectious diseases and no co-infection diagnosis. This is a very important distinction and should be clearly communicated to your staff and doctors.
Prioritize Disposable Gown Supply According to Procedural Risk Level
Prioritize your gown supply according to the risk level of procedures in your office. If you are experiencing a shortage of gowns in your office, they should be prioritized for aerosol-generating procedures or patients with known infectious disease diagnosis. As always, you must use your best clinical judgment when prioritizing and assessing the risk level of procedures in your office.
Keep An Open Dialogue About Gown Use and Availability with Your Team
Keep an open dialogue with your staff and team about your current PPE levels, supply burn rate, and conservation strategies. Implement engineering and workplace controls to maximize your supply of isolation gowns to protect yourself and your staff.
Last Resort Use
If no gowns are available for your office, the CDC recommends the following as a single-use last resort. Note that these are not considered PPE by the CDC, FDA, or OSHA.
- Disposable or reusable lab coats
- Patient gowns
- disposable aprons
- A combination of the above.
Storage of Isolation Gowns
Lab Coat Hook Rack
The most economical method of storage for your disposable gowns is going to be a simple lab coat hook rack. These come in double-sided tape and simple screw-mounted versions. These are great because they won’t take up much space and can be mounted on any open wall space.
If you have a more forgiving budget you may want to purchase a free-standing garment rack for yourself and your team. These will be a little more expensive but will keep your office professional looking and keep your gowns from ending up on the ground. This will also allow a designated team member to double-check each gown at the end of the day for spoilage that may have been missed. Whichever gown storage method that you choose, have your team write their names on their gowns with a permanent marker for easy identification.
Without a doubt, I know that keeping your self and your team safe is important to you as both a practitioner and a leader of your business. Proper use of disposable gowns is just one important piece of the puzzle. Hopefully this article can provide clarity and direction on how to develop your own conservation strategy.