Mask and eye protection breaks to ease strain on Radiation Therapy staff

A new staff wellbeing initiative is on trial in the Radiation Therapy unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) and aims to alleviate the strain of personal protective gear on staff. 

The ‘Green 15’ initiative encourages Radiation Therapy staff to head outside for 15 minutes once a day, outside of their usual break times, to recharge and enjoy some mask and eye protection free time.  

Green 15

“This is an initiative to improve staff health and wellbeing. To give them an opportunity to get their mask off, go for a walk and get some fresh air, reset and clear their head – to get themselves sorted for the rest of the shift,” said Natasha Tunney, Clinical Operations Manager for Radiation Therapy. 

For patient-facing hospital staff at the RAH it is standard practice to wear an N95 mask and eye protection, both for patient safety as well as their own.  

However, for Radiation Therapy staff this requirement can be particularly strenuous. 

Working in close quarters with one another while operating the linear accelerators used in radiation therapy drastically limits their opportunities to take short breaks for a drink of water. 

This is particularly the case at certain times in the day when operators can work for up to two hours at a time with no colleagues to relieve them. 

The challenge is also multiplied during hours when staff are treating COVID positive patients and close contacts, when additional personal protective equipment is needed. 

Since the onset of the COVID19 pandemic and the need for rigorous safety protocols, identified the need to alleviate some of the pressure on radiation therapy staff. 

“By the end of the day a lot of staff were feeling tired or had headaches, which starts to affect concentration,” she said.

The solution was the ‘Green 15’ initiative, and it is currently on trial and will continue based on positive feedback from the staff. 

“We let the staff drive this. It’s for them and so it needs to work for them,” said Ms Tunney.

Providing the world-class care for patients starts with ensuring staff have the right conditions to do so. 

Ms Tunney s received positive feedback so far and encourages other patient-facing units at the RAH and across the Central Adelaide Health Network to consider implementing their own ‘Green 15’.