Coronavirus, PPE

Female doctors talk about the challenges while wearing a PPE kit

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There is a reason why all the health workers are called “warriors” specially in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic. This is not only because they risk their own lives to attend to patients but also because of the trying circumstances under which they work.

Talking about the “trying circumstances”, the healthcare professionals work 24 hours without resting. They have to wear layered clothing and PPE (personal protective equipment) kit at all times as a precaution.

For all those who don’t know, the PPE is an assortment of protective equipment that health workers wear to prevent infection. This includes a gown or coverall for the body along with a head cover, goggles, face mask and face shield, gloves for the hands and rubber boots for the feet.

The healthcare workers have to wear it for prolonged periods and can’t take it off as and when they like. The cannot visit the restroom and so they avoid eating and drinking until absolutely necessary.

Talking about the challenges faced while wearing a PPE kit, a female doctor, Dr. Jaslovleen Kaur, says “We usually wear a diaper for passing urine. When you are menstruating, you are wearing a sanitary pad along with a diaper, and you cannot even change it for eight hours. So we take extra precautions. I have never used XL sanitary pads or tampons in my life but now I have to wear them. With a tampon particularly, it is a little more comfortable to wear a diaper.”

Sharing more information on this, another female doctor, Dr. Richa Sareen says, “The environment inside the PPE is very hot and humid. And since you do not get to change your pad for six to eight hours, the humidity and heat can lead to infection in the genital tract. There have been instances where some of my colleagues started menstruating in the PPE. So it is a choice between wasting a PPE or continues wearing it. But of course, you cannot keep wearing the soiled PPE and have to remove it.”

Many other female doctors expressed their discomfort due to the PPE kit especially when they are menstruating.

“One tends to get irritable if there is heavy bleeding or pain. We have to wear PPE for six hours. And we cannot eat or drink when in the PPE which only makes us feel more fatigued. When we ourselves are suffering, how do
we give our 100 percent to the patient?” expressed Arati Madhavi, nursing manager, Suasth Hospital, Navi Mumbai.

Dr. Jaslovleen Kaur further said, “We cannot ever say ‘no’ to escape the situation when we are on our periods. I have never taken leave because of it because women are already looked down upon as the “weaker sex”; taking leave for periods would all the more make it look like we are not competent enough. But yes, I would perhaps take leave only if I am not at all in a condition to perform my duties.”

Dr. Chadha agreed to this statement and concluded by saying, “A doctor’s world is not so simple; you cannot take a leave because of your personal problems, especially in India, where the number of doctors is anyway restricted.”