Getting Fitted for my FFP3 Mask!

As a third year student midwife on placement during these strange times, although not as strict as guidelines originally were at the peak of the pandemic, it's still important that we stay safe. 

For those women we are looking after, guidelines vary at different hospital, but at mine, we wear hospital masks throughout our  shifts and only change to the FFP3 masks for those that are positive and using aerosols. Unlike public guidelines, the masks worn in hospitals are surgical face masks designed to be worn in medical settings to limit the spread of infection. These should be limited outside of healthcare as they are not generally considered to be PPE in non-healthcare situations. Importantly, they are manufactured to a recognised standard and are resistant to droplets of fluids and splashes.
Whilst getting fit tested for these masks wasn't compulsory for students, I did feel it was important because I wanted to be able to stay with women throughout their hospital care, including cesarean sections etc. Tight-fitting respirators (such as disposable FFP3 masks) rely on having a good seal with the wearer’s face. A face fit test should be carried out to ensure the protective equipment can protect the wearer. Prior to getting tested, I heard lots of horror stories about the horrible smells and claustrophobic nature but in all honesty, it was not bad. In fact, it was quite relaxing.

The man gave me the mask and instructed me how to put it on. To ensure consistency, I put the straps below my hair, with the bottom below my ears and the top above. To put the mask on, you open it and put the chin all the way in and then bring it up and onto the nose. You then mould the mask to your face, especially the bridge of the nose. This was the area I had to work on. The first time, I could feel air escaping on breathing but after resetting it and starting again it was perfect.

It was then hooked up to a machine and I undertook several exercises: breathing normally, breathing deeply, head up and down, head left and right, bending over and breathing normally again. The exercises are meant to replicate normal movement activity that healthcare professionals undertake during care.

I was a little worried as for some of them, my score was lower than others, but any score in the green meant a pass and so I passed first time! It only took about 10 minutes and it was genuinely really simple and easy. If you are getting tested I would say don't worry about it. Go with an open mind and be calm. The faster you breathe, the harder it will be.

Following government guidance (current at the time of writing), I think it's important to mention here that FFP3 masks should only be worn by those correctly fitted and assessed. For up-to-date information on face coverings in a public setting, please see guidance here.

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