PAPRs end frustration of fit-test failures

Hospital diverts funds to reusables

At DuBois (PA) Regional Medical Center, employees were failing N95 fit tests in alarming numbers. In the cardiology department, about 46% of employees failed fit-tests — even after trying a variety of models and sizes. Things weren't much better in anesthesia (35%), cardiovascular ICU (34%), or the emergency department (26%).

The most important number — the one that prompted the hospital to switch to powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) — was the cost: about $37,000, mostly in loss of productivity of clinicians who had to spend an average of 35 minutes to complete a fit-test.

By comparison, the investment in PAPRs and education cost about $38,000, including about $5,000 for education — the only annual cost.

"We were investing a significant time commitment and money every year, and the [fit-test] failure rates were higher than we were comfortable with," says Sue Miller, RN, COHN-S/CM, director of employee health at DuBois.

Fortuitously, DuBois made the transition to PAPRs in 2008, a year before hospitals were faced with the novel H1N1 strain of influenza. That reinforced the benefits of reusable respirators, as the hospital avoided the scramble for supplies and massive fit-testing efforts.

"For us, it was a good return on investment. It made our life so much easier during the crisis," says Miller. "I'm definitely very happy we went with this solution."