The Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare (AOHP) recently adopted a new position statement emphasizing that respiratory protection is a “critical area of competence” for OHPs in healthcare.

“The position statement calls for building the competence of occupational health professionals in respiratory protection [RP],” says MaryAnn Gruden, MSN, CRNP, NP-C, COHN-S/CM, AOHP Association Community Liaison and manager of Employee Health Services at Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh. “Education and training is a fundamental building block to develop competence. AOHP has participated in the development of RP competencies and educational tools by working with an interprofessional group.”

In addition, emerging infectious diseases such as Ebola have demonstrated the importance of healthcare workers being skilled in the use of PPE including respiratory protection, AOHP emphasized. While Ebola revealed a lack of preparedness with PPE in general, the momentum began building on respiratory protection issues when a different virus hit in 2009.

“Inadequacies of PPE knowledge, training, and use were noted during the H1N1 flu pandemic,” Gruden notes. “That event lead to the 2011 Institute of Medicine Letter Report on Occupational Health Nurses and Respiratory Protection and the subsequent work that has been done to develop respiratory competencies for occupational health nurses that have included educational resources.”

Indeed, with the AOHP’s input and support, there have been a wealth of resources released on respiratory protection, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) co-creation this year of the Hospital Respiratory Protection Program Toolkit. The toolkit can be found at www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3767.pdf. (See HEH, Aug. 2015.)

“The webkit includes an educational program that is designed for the OHN who is the respiratory protection [RP] program administrator,” Gruden says. “The program covers the essential components of RP necessary to meet the requirements of Federal OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard CFR 1910.134.”