“I get greater trouble in wearing these multilayer gowns even in the primary care settings. The ability to readily connect and examine my patients with a face shield, mask and gloves is hampered. Worse, I cannot even touch the patients with bare hands even to feel the pulse. In short, I feel plasticated” opinionated a prominent Diabetologist working at Bengaluru, India.
“I was happier and comfortable in my own skin, with a crisp white Apron brandishing my name just above the breast pocket” he continued. These are one the popular yet contrarian opinions from few of the doctors practising in Individual setups i.e. Private clinics, owned and managed by them.
A lot has been written and debated about PPEs and Masks, but have we missed to discuss and revisit the role of Aprons in our Medical profession in the New normal of germophobiacs
Hygiene, sanitisation, Infection prevention and control are no longer the common words restricted to the walls of a healthcare facility. They have now found a conscious place in the everyday vocabulary of the common man from across the world.
Just as a facemask has now found a place on our countenance, resting comfortably through their slings on our ears, it’s sheer display seemingly steps up the trust that “We care for ourselves and those around us”.
But what about the white coat or the Apron? Is it now an outcast and considered a thing of the past?
Let’s get the facts straight. Our Apron also doubles up as a fabric for Personal Identity Expression (PIE). You would agree that an Apron on the shoulders and a Stethoscope around the neck, spoke volumes of our dedication, commitment and passion besides spreading the vibes of care and empathy towards our patients.
What the current pandemic did was to disrupt not just the economy, but also the identity of doctors. With a deafening clamour for the PPE and face masks, the humble Apron was taken for granted. Although the focus is on virus containment and a race for identifying preventive vaccines through expedited clinical trials, there have been no relevant trials testing and comparing the gowns and aprons for the prevention of COVID-19 infection in primary care settings(1).
India took a simpler route to keep things straight and unambiguous. The nodal health ministry suggested wearing the PPE with or without Aprons (2).
But wait, there are certain simulated exposure studies comparing concluding that wearing a traditional apron leads to more direct and indirect contamination and spillage during doffing compared to a disposable waterproof gown (3).
In this vein, although inert, maybe the Aprons of the future will have antibacterial and antiviral particles embedded within the fabric as the Plastic Aprons may not find a place in the wardrobes, as most of them would be for single/limited use.
Is that enough in countries like India? We may need an additional layer of protection. A combat protective, anti-riot jacket worn within the plastic Apron to safeguard ourselves from the mob frenzy. I am sure the readers might have read about the manhandling of doctors in Hospitals and in the public spaces when they went to spread awareness about COVID-19 and how to prevent it by ensuring basic hygiene (4).
To conclude, given the scenario, the Global plastic waste output from healthcare establishments may also substantially rise up in the coming days. We need to seriously think about the place of our traditional Aprons by the time we discover a vaccine for SARS-CoV2.
As Aprons, inject a dose of Positivity and comfort like none other.
- Guo YP, Li Y, Wong PL. Environment and body contamination: a comparison of two different removal methods in three types of personal protective clothing. Am J Infect Control. 2014;42(4):e39-45.