Oh hey there, 2020-21 school year!
Looks like things are going to be a little different this fall. Fortunately, I’m prepared. Well, as prepared as I can be during a pandemic when the data and news stories change daily.
I went on an online shopping spree in search of the best PPE for school-based SLPs and I’m here to report my findings. So, sanitize your hands and keep scrolling.
Window masks have a clear vinyl panel in the middle so people can see your mouth when you speak. Being able to see mouth movement and facial expressions make communication easier. They are also useful in articulation therapy sessions because kids need to see your mouth! I’ve tried multiple window masks from various places. The best window mask is from a company called The Hearing Spot. They are soft, high quality, and made in the USA. Did I mention SOFT? The one I ordered ties around my head (they have a tie option and an ear-loop option) and no metal nose piece which I like. I know what you’re thinking now: Great, but how do I stop it from fogging up when I speak? I have found two successful ways to stop fog. The first one is rubbing a 1/2 drop of Seventh Generation clear dish soap on the inside of the vinyl with a paper towel. The second one is using the anti-fog solution from The Hearing Spot. It is odorless and works just as well as dish soap. It comes in a handy little tub.
Face shields are an added layer of protection against exposure to respiratory droplets. And research supports their effectiveness! A cough simulation study found that a face shield could reduce a user’s viral exposure when worn near someone who was coughing (Lindsley et al, 2014), but it was still suggested that people wear masks with their face shields because particles can float around a mask and disperse into the air. So which shield is my favorite? This one from ArtToFrames on Amazon! It uses plastic glasses rims to stay on my face, which I prefer over a headband, it’s comfortable, and the shield curls around my face offering good coverage!
But what if you need to wear prescription glasses and can’t use a mask like this? I tried ZShield that goes around the neck instead of hanging on your head. This is a really neat idea if you need to wear glasses or get headaches from headbands/glasses putting pressure on your head, but I didn’t feel like it offered quite the same level of coverage.
Yes, I know wearing scrubs to work in a school may seem a little unusual. Hear me out. Scrubs are designed to be worn by healthcare professionals (SLPs are healthcare professionals!) and medical SLPs wear them all the time. So it really isn’t that odd. Plus, they dry quickly, stand up to repeated high-heat washes, and can be used with harsh detergents to kill germs. Some scrubs market themselves as being made of “antimicrobial fabric” as an added feature, but I read some research on that and found that antimicrobial scrubs were shown to be ineffective in reducing bacterial contamination in hospitals (Anderson et al 2017) and in veterinary clinics (Freeman, Halladay & Crips, 2012). So, if you’re going to buy them, buy them for the durability and moisture-wicking features not for the antimicrobial claims. Oh also, they are amazingly comfortable. I ordered the Grey’s Anatomy Edge Scrubs and really like them.
Need to convince your school administrators to let you wear scrubs? I’ve got you covered with this nifty handout that goes over all the reasons school-based SLPs should wear scrubs.
You know what else looks extra fun at work? Scrub pants and a Peachie Speechie t-shirt! In fact, if you use the code SCRUBTOP you get 15% your next regular priced Peachie Speechie t-shirt at www.peachiespeechie.com 😘
Yep, even with my mask, shield, and scrubs, I wanted another barrier. So I ordered a plexiglass divider from Shop Pop Displays. They have a TON of options, but I went with the Economy Countertop Sneeze Guard with Pass-Through Opening because I have a small room with a small table and this one fit! Fun tip: Use dry erase markers to write on it! Might as well get some extra use out of it, right?!
UV LIGHT SANITIZER AIR PURIFIER
I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear that I have a tiny, windowless, poorly ventilated therapy room at work. Oh, you too? Fellow closet-classroom SLPs will likely want an air purifier. I had surgery in June and noticed that my surgeon had this model in his office, so it seemed like a good choice. It’s called the GermGuardian and the company boasts that it “kills airborne mold and germs”. It’s relatively quiet and slim enough to fit in a corner of even the tiniest speech room.
OTHER STUFF I BOUGHT (THAT YOU WILL PROBABLY ALSO WANT TO BUY)
Face Mask Friend Strap: Handy straps to make sure your face mask never hits the ground! Keeps your mask around your chest like a necklace when you take breaks to sip your coffee.
Cloth Masks: Regular cloth masks are something in everyone’s wardrobe these days. I personally love the double-layered cloth masks from Athleta for when I need to venture out in public. They come in a handy 5-pack so there is one for every day of the workweek. However, they run a little small. Josh has a large head and can’t wear them. He prefers disposable masks.
Vitamins: I stocked up on Vitamin C to give my immune system a daily boost. I chose Olly Active Immunity Gummies because they have vitamin C and zinc but mainly because they taste good. I also bought the Olly Stress Gummies because let’s face it, this is going to be a stressful school year. And I can’t drink a margarita at school. So stress gummies it is! You can buy Olly brand gummies at Target or on Amazon.
And that’s it!! Remember when our back to school lists were for things like glue sticks and crayons and stickers? Back in the day when Lysol wipes were plentiful and getting sneezed on wasn’t cause for alarm. Hang in there, fellow SLPs! Stay safe and keep being awesome.
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