Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) For Medical Assistants

Universal, standard, and transmission-based precautions all make use of barriers or personal protective equipment (PPE). The barriers consist of gloves, mask, gown, and goggles/face shield. Gloves reduce the risk of contamination to hands but do not prevent needles or other sharp instruments from penetrating the skin. Masks and protective eyewear reduce the contamination risk to mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth. Gowns protect clothing from contamination. Barriers are used in various combinations depending upon the procedure or treatment being performed on patients. As a medical assistant, you may be exposed to infected blood and/or body fluids and must wear PPE!

Special Precautions must be taken by medical assistants while handling these equipments, they must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) at the time of handling,

1) Needlestick
One of the most common reasons for exposure to blood is caused by accidentally sticking oneself with a dirty (used) needle after performing invasive procedures such as injections and venipuncture. In the past, needlesticks were common due to the practice of needle recapping. Needles are no longer recapped, broken off, removed from syringes, or manipulated by hand in any way. They are disposed of in the approved puncture-proof container designated for sharps (Figure 4-2A). The risk to a health care provider of HIV infection caused by a needlestick is very slight; however, the risk for HBV infection caused by a needlestick can be significantly higher. (Additional information regarding specific procedures to follow should an accidental needlestick occur as well as other safety procedures will be found later in this chapter and are included in the OSHA and CLIA rules and regulations).

2) Disposal of Infectious Waste
Infectious waste (contaminated items) is described as any item that has come in contact with patient blood or body fluids. These items must be handled with gloves and disposed of by placing them in the appropriate biohazard containers that are provided by an agency with which your employer has contracted (Figure 4-2B). Infectious waste is either incinerated (burned) or subjected to sterilization by autoclave to render it harmless before it is disposed of in a sanitary landfill. The medical assistant should be placing a sturdy disposable plastic bag marked with the biohazardous waste symbol into a durable cardboard box for collection of infectious waste material. When full, these boxes are picked up by an agency for incineration or for autoclaving before disposal in a public landfill.