In hospitals, clinics and long-term care locations, personal protective equipment has been a vital part of providing health care for generations.

Initially, there were concerns that the supply of these items — things like masks, gowns, gloves and face shields — wouldn’t meet demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. A shortage had the potential to create situations that would undermine safety.

Caregivers and health care organizations like Sanford Health and the Good Samaritan had to adjust to new guidelines that emphasized both the need and importance of PPE. Now that the coronavirus is part of life, fears that the system would be overwhelmed remain.

PPE supply remains a challenge, but not an insurmountable one.

“We are not in a desperate situation at all,” says Dean Weber, Sanford Health vice president of supply chain management. “We have worked really hard and have been successful in gathering the right supplies for our caregivers.”

Pandemic conditions remain, however, meaning that higher demand for PPE will also persist.

Creating a barrier

“For nurses and health care workers, personal protective equipment is an added barrier between themselves and ill or infectious people,” says Rochelle Rindels, vice president of nursing and clinical services for the Good Samaritan.

“In health care we’ve always been familiar with the use of PPE. During the pandemic it’s become increasingly important, even in non-health care settings. The best preventative measure is good hand hygiene and protecting yourself by using social distancing and appropriately using PPE.”

While guidelines vary from state to state — the Good Samaritan has communities in 24 different states — it all starts with a mask. All caregivers are required to wear masks at all Good Samaritan locations. Rochelle anticipates these guidelines will be in place for the foreseeable future.

“As an organization, we’re expecting this high PPE use to extend into at least the beginning of 2021,” she said. “We’re looking at least another six or eight months of increased PPE use and wearing masks.”

Steady PPE supply

All of which means the challenges of supplying PPE at Sanford Health and Good Samaritan communities will continue. Fortunately, staff has a plan in place.

“It bodes well for our future that we have the products in hand that we need,” Dean says. “We don’t have to succumb to impulse buys for equipment.”

The goal is creating stable conditions. It was important before the pandemic hit. Now it’s crucial.

“When we work hard to create sustainability, whether it’s through standardization or approaching our supply needs with a logical intent, we can continue to invest in our technology and processes,” Dean says. “When we’re accomplishing that, we don’t have to be held hostage by some of the things that are happening in our country right now.”

Photo caption: Doctors and nurses at Good Samaritan – Lake Forest Village in Denton, Texas, wear face masks at all times and stop to add other protective gear at residents' doors. (Photo by the Good Samaritan)