Early COVID response showed significant misunderstanding of how to use respiratory protective equipment (RPE) effectively.
A team of researchers from the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) led by Dr. Elizabeth Beam, assistant professor in the UNMC College of Nursing and assistant director of research for the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit, is piloting interactive videos for training RPE use during a Center for Sustainment of Trauma & Readiness Skills (CSTARS) course on biocontainment care. This study includes both surgical masks and N95 respirators.
CSTARS is a collaboration among UNMC, Nebraska Medicine and the Air Force Research Laboratory's School of Aerospace Medicine.
"While healthcare has used the N95 respirator for many years for everything from patient care for Tuberculosis patients to biosafety laboratory work, it requires several key steps that are often forgotten," Dr. Beam said. "Hand hygiene and seal checking are often forgotten."
The pilot study is designed to explore the critical safety behavioral outcomes of two training interventions — viewing videos focused on the critical safety behaviors for RPE and viewing the same videos plus an interactive video scoring experience using media depicting some common errors in RPE use delivered through a learning management system before the on-site course begins.
During the weeklong in-person course, there are three opportunities to perform donning and doffing of N95 respirators and universal masking has been required during the courses so far. This allows for observation of universal masking behaviors during a four-hour portion of the course where didactic material is delivered on day one.
So far three of the six courses have been completed with 13 total participants. The study experience and early findings are informing learnings in these areas:
- Impact of training environment on mask and respirator performance measurement
- Deploying study-related eLearning pre-course
- Managing study design challenges within a pandemic
The team will conduct the final courses in the coming weeks with approximately 7 participants in each. The data will be analyzed to provide results that will determine if the video interventions are ideal for the general military population and identify target populations going forward.
If these interventions show promise for RPE training, they may also apply to other critical safety behaviors, which would be extremely beneficial for the DOD health care workforce.
"We often teach a complicated skill and assume people learned it," Dr. Beam said. "This study moves us toward assessing that learning and providing evidence for the best teaching methods."
About the National Strategic Research Institute
Through the National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska leading scientists deliver innovative national security research, technology, product and strategy development, training and exercises, and subject matter expertise to the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. One of only 14 DOD-designated University Affiliated Research Centers in the country, NSRI is sponsored by U.S. Strategic Command and works to ensure the United States’ safety and preparedness against increasingly sophisticated threats. Read about our mission.