In the healthcare industry, sanitation and hygiene are of the utmost importance. Ever since bacteria were first discovered back in the mid-1600s, the idea that healthcare workers need to protect themselves and patients from contamination and cross-contamination has become a vital issue in doctor’s offices, hospitals, labs and clinical environments.
To achieve the goals of sterility and reducing the spread of germs, many in the medical field utilize textiles specifically made for the healthcare industry. Hospital gowns, hospital scrubs, surgical scrubs and more all need to be manufactured using medical textiles that allow form to meet function in preventing the spread of disease while enabling healthcare workers to accomplish daily tasks.
These textiles are typically considered a form of personal protection equipment (PPE), and they may be combined with other PPE items like face masks or shields, latex gloves and certain types of medical coveralls.
Medical Textile Production And Requirements
Medical fabric used to manufacture healthcare textiles generally needs to be breathable and durable while still being able to repel bacteria and keep out viruses. While cotton sometimes fits the bill for breathable fabric, cotton clothing is only good for repelling surface contamination for very short periods of time.
Its porous nature does little to stop the spread of bacteria and viruses, meaning cotton is unsuitable for healthcare settings where a high degree of protection is required.
Instead, medical fabrics tend to be constructed from non-woven fabrics. Non-woven fabrics may include polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a non-porous material that can be used in a variety of medical environments within hospitals or medical offices.
PTFE is hydrophobic, so it repels liquids, but it also resists sticking, unlike many traditional polymer and rubber materials. PTFE is also lightweight and can be fashioned in such a way so as to allow for breathable space to be left in between undergarments and PTFE outerwear.
Some medical textiles also must meet specific requirements by law. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulates certain aspects of safety in the workplace, including in healthcare venues. Facility owners and managers must make sure they are providing the right PPE to employees of a healthcare facility in order to avoid fines, fees, investigations, audits and additional punitive actions.
Hospital Gown Sustainability And Safety
Because hospital sheets, gowns and similar textiles get soiled often and need to be cleaned or replaced on a regular basis, the issue of sustainability is important in the manufacture of these items. If every isolation gown that was ever used ended up in a landfill, not only would the environment suffer, but resource providers that supply the materials to make these textiles would also experience problems.
In order to create a sustainable environment in the manufacture of medical textiles, chemical agents are often used to extend the life and protective qualities of certain items.
The use of chemical agents to strengthen fabrics or create hydrophobic textiles can reduce the need to replace items as often, and it can also create more durable products that protect against hazards in a medical setting. Some textile manufacturing steps also create materials that are easy to clean and sterilize for repeated use without the worry of lingering contamination.
Safety is also a concern for textiles in a healthcare setting as loose strings, fabrics that hang too loosely or textile materials without much give can end up getting caught on the various pieces of equipment used in and around a medical setting.
Patients in an in-patient setting may require special garments in cases where they are unable to navigate obstacles steadily. For this reason, knitted fabrics are sometimes used to create gowns and other patient garments used in non-sensitive areas that are less prone to contamination. Knitted fabrics provide a high degree of flexibility while also remaining durable.
When creating PPE for a medical setting, safety must also be factored into the manufacturing process. As stated above, various chemicals are used in the manufacture of healthcare textiles to give materials the properties necessary to protect patients and healthcare workers in a sensitive medical setting.
These same chemicals may be health hazards in large doses, so the manufacturing process has to be undertaken with great care. Manufacturing professionals who work with PTFE and other PPE materials must practice a great deal of safety to avoid contaminating themselves or others with dangers like heavy metals, formaldehyde, certain dyes and more.