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Powered Air-Purifying Respirators Protecting Caregivers and Patients at BBC

Thursday, October 7, 2021
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(Left to right) Acute/ED staff Jesse Karp, Shelby McJunkin, traveling nurse Paige Wagner showing unit on her back, and April Huffer, Ana Massey.

A powered air-purifying respirator has been a familiar healthcare worker’s garb throughout COVID-19 but is now commonplace in recent weeks as Beartooth Billings Clinic Acute/ED has experienced increased cases. Also known as PAPRs [pronounced ‘Papp – er’], these respirators consist of a battery-powered air blower that draws ambient air through a filter cartridge, directing the purified air to headgear such as a mask/hood or other head covering worn by the user. The top qualities of PAPRs include, according to Jesse Karp CNA, “the fresh air from the PAPR is nice”; Ali Fischer CNA agrees, “I can breathe a lot easier when wearing my PAPR”. Ana Massey RN is convinced that “patients can visualize me speaking and this leads to better communication between healthcare workers and patients.Downside of the apparatus? It takes a few more minutes to set up and put on than just an N95.  If there is an emergency, staff will put on an N95 first. Also, when several staff members are in a room wearing a PAPR, the noise from the units can get louder than usual.  All staff members agree that the benefits of the PAPR outweigh the downside.Infection Prevention Coordinator, Melissa McJunkin, RN, refers to PAPRs as “a lovely addition to our COVID arsenal. PAPRs keep our nurses safe while attending to positive patients that are in the hospital.  Every staff member wearing a PAPR must complete training and pass in competency.  Staff members have been trained in cleaning their PAPR in order to wear from room to room.” While staff members were previously sharing PAPR hoods, now every staff member who provides direct care to covid positive patients, has their own PAPR hood. PAPR components can be cleaned, disinfected, re-used, and shared. PAPRs uses only HE filters, which have a greater filtration efficiency against the smallest pathogen particles. A PAPR may be less taxing from a physiological/breathing resistance perspective than other respirators and allows the patient to see their caregiver’s face and smile, which lends to decreasing their anxieties.