A doctor’s diary from a pandemic: “To don and to doff”

“Here ye, here ye, a decree has gone out to all ye who hath ears, that thou shalt don and doff personal protective equipment with alacrity but not beforeth thou shalt have cleansed thy hands for a greatly long time whilst humming a jolly ditty for 20 seconds, lest thou besmirch thy garments and thy personhood with the dread pestilence”

March 21, 2020

Such is the state of affairs at the hospital. Healthcare workers have always worn protective equipment when dealing with germs and diseases and other nastiness, but we’ve taken it to a whole new level now. People around the hospital now throw around terms like PPE (personal protective equipment), don (to put on), and doff (to take off) like they are some new millennial-inspired texting shortcuts. We don and we doff like champs – but you may be surprised to learn that there is a right way and a wrong way to put on a gown. Turns out many of us need a bit of a refresher course, so at Hennepin Healthcare we have a pedal-to-the-metal education campaign in full force, headed up by our awesome in-house educational team (thanks, Chris, Steph, and Dr. Meghan!).

Every day during our COVID madness I find people who are contributing to keeping us prepared. Our donning and doffing educational plan involves a) posters around the hospital campus, b) high-quality training videos produced by our in-house team, and c) people roaming the halls to do real-time, in-person, and supportive education to all of us about how to put on (don) and take off (doff) our PPE.

Hand hygiene. Mask. Gowns. Gloves. Face shields. Who wipes down the doorknob. Who goes in the room. Who stands outside with a donning-doffing checklist to make sure we do it right. How to take the darn gown off (it isn’t as simple as you think!). This is what we talk about every day.

Some are born to doff, some achieve doffing, and some have doffing thrust upon them.

We even have a PPE Conservation Team who is tasked with safe-guarding our limited supply of protective gear. We struggle with the lack of adequate supplies. Our hospital carefully counts and controls how many masks we have left, how many gowns, how many gloves. Some of it is locked up in a secret location. And my friends, hospitals do not have enough for now.

So we have all become expert donners and doffers (OK, are those really words?) at the hospital. Doing our best to stay safe all while conserving what we have. Yup.

It isn’t for lack of trying, or lack of willingness to buy more gear. Supplies are just not available in our country in the amounts we need them. We should all take a collective sigh at that fact. And then we should all insist of our national leaders that they correct that. Masks are not rocket science. We can do this.

To don or not to don, that is the question.

Actually, there is no question. We don. We doff.

OK, I actually wrote a post about the exciting world of putting on gowns. If you made it this far, thanks!

In the end, I believe this pandemic will make our communities stronger. Check back often for more of my random thoughts from a hospital in the midst of a pandemic. Subscribe by e-mail to get notifications if you wish.

David

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One thought on “A doctor’s diary from a pandemic: “To don and to doff”

  1. I always love hearing you on WCCO on Sunday mornings. Your common sense and positive attitude brighten my day. Signed, an old ER nurse.

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