Personal protective equipment and intensive care unit healthcare worker safety in the COVID-19 era (PPE-SAFE): An international survey

Alexis Tabah, Mahesh Ramanan, Kevin B. Laupland, Niccolò Buetti, Andrea Cortegiani, Johannes Mellinghoff, Andrew Conway Morris, Luigi Comporota, Nathalie Zappella, Muhammed Elhadi, Pedro Povoa, Karin Amrein, Gabriela Vidal, Lennie Derde, Matteo Bassetti, Guy Francois, Nathalie Ssi yan kai, Jan J. De Waele

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To survey healthcare workers (HCW) on availability and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) caring for COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit (ICU). Materials and method: A web-based survey distributed worldwide in April 2020. Results: We received 2711 responses from 1797 (67%) physicians, 744 (27%) nurses, and 170 (6%) Allied HCW. For routine care, most (1557, 58%) reportedly used FFP2/N95 masks, waterproof long sleeve gowns (1623; 67%), and face shields/visors (1574; 62%). Powered Air-Purifying Respirators were used routinely and for intubation only by 184 (7%) and 254 (13%) respondents, respectively. Surgical masks were used for routine care by 289 (15%) and 47 (2%) for intubations. At least one piece of standard PPE was unavailable for 1402 (52%), and 817 (30%) reported reusing single-use PPE. PPE was worn for a median of 4 h (IQR 2, 5). Adverse effects of PPE were associated with longer shift durations and included heat (1266, 51%), thirst (1174, 47%), pressure areas (1088, 44%), headaches (696, 28%), Inability to use the bathroom (661, 27%) and extreme exhaustion (492, 20%). Conclusions: HCWs reported widespread shortages, frequent reuse of, and adverse effects related to PPE. Urgent action by healthcare administrators, policymakers, governments and industry is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-75
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Critical Care
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • COVID-19
  • Health care workers
  • Intensive care
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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