I was at an EMS meeting recently and we were talking about when if ever we will go back to the pre-Covid-19 protocols concerning infection control, and someone made the observation that maybe we shouldn’t go back.
Just a year ago, we had an agenda item about how EMS was frequently observed not following standard infection control policies such as hand-washing and stretcher cleaning. That has changed. Today everyone wears masks, most stretchers smell like bleach and most of our hands are raw and dried from all the hand-washing.
I don’t think in the past many of us correlated getting nasty winter colds with maybe not always washing our hands.
I remember years ago, going to intubate a patient. To do it, I assumed my normal intubating position of laying prone on my stomach balancing on my elbows, my face less than a foot from the patient’s open mouth through which I stuck my larengyscope blade, to move the patient’s tongue out of the way so I could see his vocal chords.
The patient vomited and I got hit in the face and eyeballs with a blast of hot spew. Now we carried goggles and maybe even face shields back then, but I had never used one, and had maybe only once ever seen someone – in that case a brand new medic – use one. Even getting hit that one time was not enough to make me wear one. It was just an occupational hazard of intubating.
I, and many like me, never associated, getting spewed on with getting sick. COVID has changed all that. With paramedics getting seriously ill, and in some cases dying, due to exposure to COVID-19, no one should intubate any patient without an N95 mask and face shield on. I know I never will again.
We can’t see germs, but COVID-19 has shown us the destruction they bring.
I was around in the later 1980s when few in EMS wore gloves and getting bloody was considered by some to be a badge of honor. Even in recent years, I have sometimes been too slow to get my gloves on. No longer.
COVID-19 has changed my infection control practices for the better.
Hands need to be washed, stretcher and ambulance surfaces decontaminated, gloves and full PPE worn.
Be safe all.