Training Retention of Level C Personal Protective Equipment Use by Emergency Medical Services Personnel

William E. Northington, G. Michael Mahoney, Michael E. Hahn, Joe Suyama, Dave Hostler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Objectives: To assess the six-month training retention for out-of-hospital providers donning and doffing Level C personal protective equipment (PPE). Methods: In this prospective observational study, 36 out-of-hospital providers enrolled in a paramedic program were trained in Level C (chemical-resistant coverall, butyl gloves, and boots and an air-purifying respirator) PPE use. A standardized training module and checklist of critical actions developed by a hazardous materials (hazmat) technician were used to evaluate donning and doffing. Students were trained until they were able to correctly don and doff the Level C PPE. An investigator used the checklist accompanying the training module to assess proficiency and remediate mistakes. Six months after initial training, the subjects were reassessed using the same investigator and checklist. Errors were designated as either critical (resulted in major self-contamination of the airway, such as early removal of the respirator) or noncritical (potentially resulted in minor self-contamination not involving the airway). Results: Only five subjects (14.3%) were able to don and doff PPE without committing a critical error. The most common critical errors were premature removal of the respirator (65.7%; n = 23) and actions allowing the contaminated suit to touch the body (54.3%; n = 19). The most common noncritical error was possible self-contamination due to the boots not being removed before exposing other body parts (37.1%; n = 13). Of the seven subjects (20%) with additional prior hazmat training, only two donned and doffed PPE without committing a critical error. Conclusions: Retention of proper donning and doffing techniques in paramedic students is poor at six months after initial training. Even in subjects with previous hazmat, firefighter, and emergency medical services training, critical errors were common, suggesting that current training may be inadequate to prevent harmful exposures in emergency medical services personnel working at a hazmat or weapons of mass destruction incident.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)846-849
Number of pages4
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • PPE
  • first responder
  • safety
  • training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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