Putting on and taking off personal protective equipment properly involves a specific sequence that’s easy to mess up.
And early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors at the Royal Melbourne Hospital realised they needed a simple way to help people remember the correct steps.
“We thought we probably just need a jingle, something that will stick in your head,” Dr Jonathan Papson, an emergency physician and the director of emergency education at the hospital, told Radio National on Monday morning.
One competition for the best PPE jingle later (prize: toilet paper), Dr Papson created two catchy videos, detailing the correct ways to put on and take off PPE.
They’ve been on the doctor’s YouTube channel since March, but the Put on PPE banger has taken off after being uploaded to the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s TikTok account late last week.
“Getting the gear on is important, so that then you’re safe, but taking it off is also probably more important,” Dr Papson said.
“Especially at the end of a busy shift when you’re tired and people are ringing you up and there’s other things to do — you really don’t want to get distracted in the sequence.”
The beat underpinning the educational dance comes from another viral song, Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen, which was created by Japanese comedian Daimaou Kosaka in 2016.
The emergency physician said it was easy to make a mistake when taking off PPE, and the song had even helped him remember the next steps in the process.
“It’s important to get it in the right sequence and a very small error can do you in,” he said.
More than 1700 healthcare workers in Victoria have been infected with coronavirus since the pandemic began, and nearly 1000 of those cases are currently active cases.
Some doctors have called for more detail on how and when people in the industry have contracted the virus.
Different surveys of healthcare workers in the state have reported varying levels of access to adequate PPE.
‘Like a sci-fi movie’: PPE changing interactions but workers adjusting
Dr Papson said large facilities like the Royal Melbourne Hospital had staff dedicated to ensuring supplies were adequate.
But he said smaller health services might find it harder to manage that inventory.
There was enough gear, but sometimes it does not get to where it’s needed, when it’s needed, he said.
“You have to do something in a hurry: Where’s the mask? Where’s the gear? Where’s the box?” he said.
Dr Papson said wearing full PPE meant health workers could not interact the way they normally would with patients.
“You could smile, but could people see that?” he said
“And as people get older or confused or more scared, it’s pretty frightening — it’s like a sci-fi movie the way we look in this stuff.
“You could imagine if people were not ready for that, it would be quite scary and confronting, I think.”
But he said while COVID-19 was relatively new, infectious diseases weren’t, so emergency staff were adjusting to wearing PPE and working during the pandemic.
“You just get on with it, you just do your job, and hope things will be fine – what else can you do?”.