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Hospital uniforms are a smart move

PUBLISHED: 17:22 17 December 2001 | UPDATED: 11:02 03 March 2010

IT'S all change at Ipswich Hospital's A&E department with a smart new look – but behind the uniforms lies a far more serious reason than pure image.

The new attire worn by Accident and Emergency staff, actually repels contamination from patients.

By Tracey Sparling

IT'S all change at Ipswich Hospital's A&E department with a smart new look – but behind the uniforms lies a far more serious reason than pure image.

The new attire worn by Accident and Emergency staff, actually repels contamination from patients.

When staff treated patients before, there was a high risk of their clothes being soiled, and their skin being contaminated from patient's blood and other body fluids.

Traditional nursing and medical uniforms did not protect against the spattering of personal clothing, and have also been shown to harbour germs, which are a potential source of cross infection.

Although disposable gowns and plastic aprons were available, staff had to anticipate a splash or contamination before it happened to be able to pull them on – and high-risk situations often develop quickly and unexpectedly.

It happened just last month when a teenager with cut wrists turned violent, and the children's area of A&E had to be thoroughly cleaned and staff counselled, as featured in the Evening Star.

The risk to staff's own health is low, but they do run the risk of contracting a serious illness from a patient's blood or body fluids.

There is a 0.04 per cent risk of HIV being transmitted if the staff member has broken skin, with Hepatitis B running at approximately 30pc in the same setting.

A&E Sister Frances Yule said: "That is the risk that members of the emergency department are exposed to on a daily basis.

"Another risk is for doctors who wear a tie, because this rapidly becomes a noose if grabbed by an aggressive patient - the highest rates of violence and aggression are reported in the emergency department.

"It was therefore decided that all medical and nursing staff should wear new protective clothing, made of liquid-repellent ultrafine polyester fabric.

"It also has the advantages of allowing no splash contamination to the skin, and meeting European Legislative standards."

Medical staff wear a green version of the uniform, with navy for senior nurses, lilac for clinical skills technicians, and grey for technicians.

Sister Yule stressed that it is also important for the general public to wear protective clothing - as eye injuries are one of the most common reasons for attending A&E.

Many accidents could be avoided if people wore safety goggles.

The four main causes of eye injury are:

Foreign bodies like dust and dirt particles and splinters, and scratches from twigs or fingernails grazing the cornea.

Chemical injuries from cleaning products, paint, aerosols or perfume burning the eye

Injury from a blunt object like a ball hitting the face, especially squash balls resulting in facial fractures, eye haemorrhage, and detached retinas.

Exposure to radiation, caused by welding or bright sunlight and resulting in damage to the cornea.

Top tips to avoid an accident:

Adequate protection should be worn at all times when welding

Always choose sunglasses with U.V. protection

Always wear safety goggles whilst decorating and gardening at home

Speak to your Health and Safety Officer about safety eye wear in your work environment.

Sister Yule and the team also see many foot and ankle injuries on people who wear inappropriate footwear.

Sprained ankles or crush injuries to the feet and toes are common, especially in the summer when people take to gardening, mowing the lawn in unsuitable shoes.

Sister Yule said: "If working in a high risk environment, it is imperative that shoes meeting the British safety standards are worn, to prevent crush injury from falling objects, and chemical spillages.

"There are many safety and footwear companies who can provide safety footwear and boots, for industrial or home use."


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