Unboxing Personal Protective Equipment

When it comes to caring for patients with Ebola, there is a specific way to put on personal protective equipment (PPE). This is a complicated process that should be completed with a partner, who watches and lets you know if any errors have been made as these errors could result in contamination. Possible errors include deviating from the order that pieces of the PPE are supposed to be put on, or improperly putting on the piece of PPE.

Dyspepsia process
User experience map showcasing the process of donning (putting on) PPE

After experiencing training on the process to put on Ebola PPE, we were asked to improve the process and develop a design that might reduce the error rates in putting on the PPE. Our group found that healthcare workers often reported a lack of confidence in putting on/taking off Ebola PPE. Our goal was to design an intervention that would increase user confidence when putting on the PPE and, through increasing confidence, reduce errors made when putting on the PPE. Our process consisted of:


An in-person training session exposed us to the existing training protocol at a local hospital, as well as the challenges of the process. Desk research allowed us to further understand the scope of the problem and develop our hypothesis.


Through ideation and iterative development, we developed a storage solution with a visual instruction sheet. The intent of this was to create a one-stop shop that guided the user through putting on the PPE, allowing them to focus on the physical process rather than on remembering their training.


In-person usability testing was conducted with three nurses from local hospitals. During the testing, participants were introduced to the topic and asked to provide background information about their experience with PPE. The participants then were asked to 'unbox' the prototype as if they were going to put on the PPE, thinking aloud while they do so. This was video recorded for later analysis.


The videos from the usability testing sessions were visually transcribed into key frames, the actions being performed and what was being said at that time. These were distilled into a journey map to highlight the findings of the testing sessions.

The usability testing sessions lead to some valuable insightst that we would implement if the project had moved forward. In-particular, the testing highlighted a lack of structure to the existing delivery of PPE and indicated the value in having a visual instruction sheet to reduce the information the user is forced to remember.