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From the moment corona arrived in the Netherlands, nurses had to take extra measures to protect themselves against this virus. But the personal protective equipment also comes with challenges. The heat caused by the plastic suits is one such challenge that makes work uncomfortable as temperatures can rise to thirty-six degrees. And that is why healthcare professionals quickly turned to cooling vests as a potential solution. Whether or not they would work, no one was sure.
Cooling vest is a proven solution against heat for COVID-19 nurses
Radboudumc in collaboration with TNO, started investigating the potential benefits of cooling vests. These vests were originally developed for top athletes for the Olympic Games in Tokyo and first had to be modified as athletes use the vests to cool down quickly after physical exertion. Whereas the nurses needed them to remain cool for a longer period.
Once the vests were modified, and in use, a study was carried out. Seventeen nurses, five men, and twelve women were followed for two days, one day with and one day without a cooling vest. They all worked in COVID-19 care at Radboudumc. They wore the vest over their work clothes but under the protective suit.
The cooling vest had a temperature of twenty-one degrees and a weight of 1.2 kilos when put on at the start of the shift. Three hours into the shift, they replaced the vest with a new one. The vests were brought up to temperature using a mobile cooler and disinfected with alcohol after use.
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Cooling vest has a psychological effect
The vests did not lower the body temperature but, users felt more comfortable and, the heart rate went down. Ninety percent of nurses reported feeling discomfort and hot without a vest and, this dropped to twenty to thirty percent with a vest. Also, almost all nurses said that wearing a vest was comparable to working without protective equipment. Because of the success, the cooling vests are now standard in the COVID-19 departments at Radboudumc.
It is great to see how cooling vests that were initially developed for athletes have helped the nurses. I’m curious if these will become standard in hospitals, or if they will disappear after the pandemic. What do you think?