Delivering PPE training to Tasmanian rural general practices: Enhancing COVID-19 preparedness and response

Ms Leigh Harkness1, Ms Catherine  Teare1, Ms Belinda  Beavan1, Ms Kimberely  Hymas1, Ms Maria Unwin1, Dr Thi Thuy Ha Dinh1, Dr Faline  Howes2, Ms Ebony  Verdouw3, Associate Professor Kathleen Tori1

1School of Nursing, University of Tasmania, Newnham, Australia, 2Provider Engagement, Primary Health Tasmania, , Australia, 3COVID-19 Response and Emergency Preparedness, Primary Health Tasmania, , Australia


General practices are central to the ongoing efforts of supporting and informing the whole-of-state COVID-19 pandemic response. To ensure currency of precautionary measures, Primary Health Tasmania partnered with the School of Nursing (SoN), UTAS to provide additional infection control and personal protective equipment (PPE) training to all general practice staff in rural locations to build their readiness and preparedness. Enhancing appropriate PPE use amongst general practice employees maximises their safety and that of clients and the community. This presentation reports the results of the program  and outcome evaluation. Following a ‘train-the-trainer’ approach, four academic staff at SoN presented 20 one-hour face-to-face upskilling educational sessions for 141 staff across 18 general practices. Each session included infection control principles, demonstration of hand hygiene, PPE donning and doffing required for safe COVID-19 testing. Staff completed a questionnaire and were individually assessed in donning and doffing technique post-training. Staff included general practitioners (29.8%), practice nurses (24.8%) and receptionists ( 24.8%) and others (20.6%). The average age was 46 years, 66% were female and 14.9% spoke English as a second language. Three-quarters (74.4%) of health-trained practice staff had undertaken previous PPE training while only 25.7% of the non-health trained staff had. Most of staff reported improved knowledge (96.5%) and performed well in the post-training assessments (average score was 13.2 out of 14). The brief one-off session demonstrated timely support and benefited knowledge, skill and confidence of all staff working in general practice especially non-health trained employees and those who had not received PPE training previously.


Leigh Harkness is a Lecturer in Nursing at the University of Tasmania and coordinates the first Practice Experience Placement units in the undergraduate degree. She is passionate about person-centred care and supporting the development of the professional identity of nursing students. Leigh’s focus in undergraduate education is facilitating the development of knowledge and skills in fundamental nursing skills, including the appropriate use of PPE. Leigh is project lead, in partnership with Primary Health Tasmania, providing PPE training to staff in General Practices in rural areas of Tasmania.