Nebraska Medicine pioneering technique to re-use PPE
John Lowe, Ph.D., UNMC assistant vice chancellor for inter-professional health security training and education
In light of the national shortage of one-use personal protective equipment (PPE), Nebraska Medicine has developed a safe and effective method to decontaminate these items so they can be used multiple times, instead of just once.
A team led by John Lowe, Ph.D., UNMC assistant vice chancellor for inter-professional health security training and education, developed a safe and effective method to decontaminate N95 respirators so they can be used multiple times, instead of just once. It involves using ultraviolet light towers to irradiate high numbers of N95 respirators
The strategy will allow Nebraska Medicine to greatly extend its supply of these items during the coronavirus pandemic.
"The shortage of PPE is a nationwide issue -- each and every one of these items is increasingly precious," said Mark Rupp, M.D., chief of the UNMC Division of Infectious Diseases. "Although we were well prepared, our supplies were beginning to dwindle. We had to find a way to keep our providers and patients safe, and this will definitely help us achieve that goal."
The decontamination of these items works like this: groups of N95s are safely bagged and transported to a room inside Nebraska Medical Center, which is equipped with two ultraviolet light towers. The N95 respirators are hung on wires stretching the length of the room and then decontaminated when the lights are powered on. They are then removed and returned to the original owners for reuse.
"The shortage has forced us to be innovative," said Dr. Lowe. "While these items weren't meant to be used more than once, this is a 100% safe way to extend their useful life. Other major hospital systems in the U.S. have also started to implement this method for the same reason we are."
Staff members have been provided with instructions on how to safely remove their PPE and place in bags for transport to the decontamination room.
Several community partners and concerned members of the public have offered to donate masks to Nebraska Medicine in this time of need. Nebraska Medicine leaders greatly appreciate these offers and are exploring all of them to continue to add to the medical center's stockpile of personal protective equipment.