What can doctors do to protect themselves and others?

Gillian Murphy avatar
Written by Gillian Murphy
Updated over a week ago

Dear SurgicalPerformance users 

As doctors, we meet a large number of people including patients daily. Some may carry COVID-19 and will not even be aware themselves. Regardless, our risk of infection is much higher than for other professions. Therefore our risk to bring COVID-19 home and infect others is high. This is critical to consider especially if we are in contact with vulnerable people who are at high risk of dying from COVID-19.

I discussed with colleagues a few measures that could minimise our risk of infection (and therefore the risk that you unknowingly infect vulnerable others). The basis of these actions is to assume that all patients potentially could be infected (similar to assumptions that all patients could carry HIV).  So what can we do?

  1. Since last week, I now change into a dedicated set of work clothesand change back again into a separate set of home clothes. I may leave home in clean clothes (e.g., clean scrubs). Option 1 is that I have a shower at work and change into another set of clean clothes there. Option 2 is that I drive home in my work clothes and before I enter the house, strip, put the clothes into the washing machine, have a shower and change into home clothes. Only then I say hello to my family. You may need to vary where and when to shower and change clothes; however, the idea is to do your best to keep the potentially infected work clothes separate from your home/family members.  

  2. Keep in mind that soap dissolves the virus. When I shower, I make sure that I am covered with soap for at least 20 to 30 seconds all over including hair. 

  3. I use a face mask when in contact with patients or in public spaces where I cannot be 1.5 meters apart from. This is partly to protect me, but it will also protect others from me, should unknowingly be infected. 

  4. I wear glasses and I clean them regularly. Soap will do. If you don’t wear glasses, protective eyewear should be used when in contact with patients. 

  5. The Chinese Handbook of COVID-19 Prevention and Treatment ( also suggests wearing a disposable surgical cap and gloves when working in a general outpatient clinic. 

  6. Your wrist watch or other jewellery could carry virus. If you keep wearing your watch, clean it as often as you wash hands. 

  7. I don't leave my phone on surfaces accessible to many people. I don't touch my phone with gloves on. 

  8. Make sure you don't bring potentially infectious items (e.g., a pen) in contact with your mouth, nose or eyes. Have a dedicated work pen. 

  9. I still have some hand sanitiser in my rooms but when we run out, there are some recipes on the internet that seem easy enough to produce hand sanitiser myself. 

These are measures appropriate for work in a general medical area (e.g., clinic). A different set of rules will apply for work with confirmed COVID-19 patients (e.g., on an isolation ward, in ICU, etc.).

Please Stay Safe. 

Kind Regards,
Andreas Obermair

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