In the controlled chaos that can occur in hospitals, the staff’s first instincts are focused on maintaining patient care. That can be a problem if that staff has inadvertently been exposed to body fluids that have soaked through their scrubs, a recognized risk for healthcare workers.
Vestagen Protective Technologies is addressing the problem with its VESTEX Active Barrier apparel. Active Barrier apparel is designed as a replacement for traditional, everyday hospital attire and helps repel splatter and spills of fluids and other material. The fabric also contains an EPA-registered antimicrobial agent shown in laboratory and hospital settings to inhibit certain tested bacteria from growing on the fabric under the conditions of the tests. Neither liquid repellency nor antimicrobial tests are intended to assess the active barrier apparel’s ability to meet personal protective equipment requirements, and the ability of the fabric to reduce exposure or infections has not been studied. Additionally, this product does not protect users or others against disease-causing bacteria and must always be cleaned thoroughly after each use. Though the antimicrobial layer repels liquids, the scrubs remain breathable and comfortable.
“When worn regularly, VESTEX garments provide documented and reliable fabric protection,” says Marc Lessem, Vestagen’s chief marketing officer. “They keep the uniform from absorbing fluids, which results in a more professional image due to fewer stains and odors, but also result in fewer germs on the fabric and less exposure for coworkers, patients, and loved ones at home.”
In fact, a study published in the Journal of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology found a reduction of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on VESTEX scrubs compared to standard fabric garments worn by a group of ICU healthcare workers. (The study did not assess the impact on healthcare-associated infection rates or test the fabric to establish the ability of the apparel to reduce disease transmission.) And although its findings cannot be generalized beyond the setting studied, the study did find that “when bundled with known infection prevention strategies such as hand hygiene, (VESTEX fabric) may limit the bacterial burden of the inanimate environment” and “may be a useful adjunct to other infection prevention measures.”
“Local media coverage typically generated by implementing VESTEX also enhances community relations and helps build a stronger hospital brand.”
Lessem adds that the company’s scrubs are designed for combined use with existing personal protective equipment (PPE) used when fluid exposure is anticipated. In fact, Lessem compares routine, general purpose use of VESTEX attire to the way in which air bags complement seat belts for vehicle passenger safety.
“Our scrubs minimize the risks associated with unanticipated fluid exposures, but VESTEX is not a replacement for PPE, which is the gold standard,” Lessem explains. “Our garments should be used together with PPE as an insurance policy in case of poor PPE compliance, improper PPE removal, or possible PPE failure.”
Vestagen began developing VESTEX in 2009. After extensive testing to identify the most effective fluid repellent and antimicrobial agent, a remaining challenge was making the fabric breathable. This was addressed by developing an application process that leaves the outward-facing surface resistant to liquid, but the inside (against the skin) surface still able to wick moisture away from the body.
That dedication and attention to detail is essential to the company’s manufacturing regimen. The chemistry formulation and application process alone requires weeks of effort. A robust quality assurance program also ensures formulation accuracy, application consistency, and postproduction durability and effectiveness.
VESTEX is available online, making them competitively priced. “Selling directly to customers enables us to offer added value for just a few dollars more than standard, untreated uniforms,” Lessem says.
Several hospitals, such as Northwell Health in New York and Baptist Health System in Jacksonville, Florida, have provided VESTEX garments to their employees. This has helped address common strategic initiatives, such as employee satisfaction, which can have a positive spillover effect on patient satisfaction.
In one instance, Lessem anonymously approached a neonatal unit staffer to ask what the “V” on the sleeve of her scrubs stood for. He was thrilled when she demonstrated an extraordinarily high awareness of the VESTEX line. She told him the logo meant they were higher-quality uniforms that the hospital provided to help protect the staff—something which makes an impact on the patients and the community at large. “Local media coverage typically generated by implementing VESTEX also enhances community relations and helps build a stronger hospital brand,” Lessem says.
In addition to lab coats and healthcare workers’ uniforms, Vestagen also makes patient apparel and is considering numerous customer-requested line extensions. Any such product expansion will have to meet rigorous testing to mirror real-world use patterns, just as current products are tested to show they maintain their performance and durability for up to fifty home washings.
In the meantime, Lessem says, the innovations that Vestagen has introduced empower healthcare workers—nurses in particular. “They are doing heroes’ work,” he says. “That creates a very satisfying sense of pride for all of us.”