Lessons From Other Disciplines About Communication, Human Performance and Situational Awareness While Wearing Personal Protective Equipment

Margaret Scott*, John Unsworth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
23 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction: The spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19) has quickly accelerated into a pandemic. As COVID-19 has swept across the globe, health systems have adapted, including the cessation of routine surgery and the re-deployment of staff to critical care settings. Prompt interventions such as endotracheal (ET) intubation, are deemed essential in patients with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. Intubation requires a coordinated approach and effective teamwork, as it is a high-risk procedure not least because it is an aerosol-generating intervention with increased infection risk. As a result, teams responsible for performing ET intubation are required to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which in turn hinders communication and situational awareness, and can hamper team work. Method: This review considers the effects of wearing PPE on performance and situational awareness in a healthcare environment. Drawing on literature from the fire service and military, the review will explore approaches to improving communication and situational awareness for teams who, at times, are unfamiliar with one another. The review will consider human factors and, identify approaches that assist teams, including teams that are unfamiliar with one another, to adapt to new ways of working while performing high-risk procedures. Conclusion: Literature indicates that standardisation, pre-brief and training are important elements of developing improved situational awareness and team working in individuals whose senses may be affected by PPE. In addition, checklists provide a useful way of standardising procedures and can form the basis of a structured pre-brief. Checklists exist for both intubation and patient proning, which, alongside simulation-based team training, provide a useful method of preparing an often unfamiliar workforce for their roles during an epidemic or pandemic. The multi-phase nature of most pandemics provides an opportunity to review processes and implement such procedures, and to develop staff using team-based training during the post-peak period.

Original languageEnglish
Article number237796082096376
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalSAGE Open Nursing
Early online date14 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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