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Because each brand and style of respirator fits differently, wearers need to be tested for the proper fit.

Sport and Wellness offers respirator fit testing for health-care students

March 23, 2021 | Campus Life, Science, Health

After COVID-19 placed additional demands on Alberta Health Services' (AHS) ability to offer respirator fit testing to students, MacEwan University's Sport and Wellness and Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) teams stepped up.

In December 2020, the two teams began providing respirator fit testing to students. For many Edmonton-area health-care students (studying nursing, pharmacy and beyond), getting fit tested for an N95 respirator is a program requirement — even before COVID-19. A properly fitting N95 respirator, which seals to the user’s face, will reduce the wearer’s exposure to airborne particle hazards such as viruses and bacteria, and offers a higher level of protection than surgical masks.

"At MacEwan University Sport and Wellness, we offer a pass/fail test method that uses your sense of taste or smell, or your reaction to an irritant in order to verify your ability to obtain an effective seal and an acceptable, comfortable fit for a selected tight-fitting respirator," says Victoria Mitchell, acting aquatics supervisor, Sport and Wellness. "Each brand and style of respirator fits differently and until properly tested, the wearer will not know if they will obtain and maintain an effective seal."

With more than 200 MacEwan students requiring fit testing, the university's HSE testing team and registration system (which only serves MacEwan employees) were not able to meet the demand. MacEwan’s Occupational Health and Biosafety Officer Manager Ashley Hughes reached out to Sport and Wellness.

"Sport and Wellness already has a registration system and runs a number of occupational training and testing programs, and the aquatics team employs both provincial and national trainers for several certifying training agencies," Mitchell says. "We were confident that, with training, our team would be able to apply their existing leadership competencies to this new program."

Fit testing began in November and within three and a half weeks, over 250 N95 fit testing appointments had been completed. Appointment offerings for testing were expanded in January 2021 to accommodate the needs of students and faculty within the University of Alberta's nursing and pharmaceutical faculties. By the end of February, over 650 health-care students and faculty were tested.

"In my years of respirator fit testing experience, I have never worked with a group as adaptable and effective at providing quality fit testing as I have with Sport and Wellness," says Hughes. "They take the time to educate on respiratory protection during the test, ensuring that everyone walks away with a better understanding of respiratory protection."

Sport and Wellness would like to continue offering respirator fit testing for students; offer fit testing to MacEwan employees who require N95, half-face and full-face respirators; and look at expanding this service to the public.

"Sport and Wellness is a team of creative, passionate professionals who support students, staff, faculty, the public and one another in doing whatever it takes to meet the needs of the collective whole," says Mitchell.
 

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