Tony Nicklinson is paralysed and relies on 24-hour care. In his second article for Nursing Times, he suggests that carers should question the use of gloves
It has been just over a year since the carers have been looking after me without wearing gloves and, as expected, nothing untoward has happened to me or them. Actually, it’s not quite true that they have given up gloves, for one carer puts on a glove when wiping and then drying my bottom. I suppose the company would ordinarily wear gloves for this sort of long-term domestic care, but the truth is that I don’t know. I have asked but, as yet, they haven’t told me.
It may be they don’t really know why they wear gloves, they just do. They probably have some vague notion that it is “hygienic”. Given below are some reasons, although the list probably isn’t exhaustive:
- Because they can
- Because they think gloves are cleaner than clean hands
- Because they don’t want to get their hands dirty
- Because their competitors do and they don’t want to be different
The central issue is that people don’t appear to ask “why?” before they specify gloves. I believe if they did, gloves would seldom be worn. They could ask questions such as “why do I think wearing gloves is better than not?”, “who benefits?”, “am I trying to stop the worker catching something nasty or vice versa?”, “can I wash my hands instead of wearing gloves?”
I once asked another care provider to justify his glove-wearing and he refused, implying instead that I was a troublemaker and would put my care in doubt if I continued. So much for transparency!
Recently a chiropodist came. She was asked if she would cut my toenails without wearing gloves. She refused and was sent away. She would have been feet away from my en-suite bathroom so what was she worried about?
I recently saw on TV a midwife wearing a glove when giving a patient a scan. Why? I don’t believe that she couldn’t have washed her hands afterwards so was the glove simply a way to avoid having to?
Similarly, I saw a carer preparing food while wearing gloves. Why? Was she avoiding getting food on her hands or avoiding contaminating the food with her hands?
The carer who wears a glove while attending to my bottom obviously doesn’t mind taking risks when wiping his own bottom because he cannot see what he is doing, unlike doing mine; all that happens is that he doesn’t get the glove dirty and he discards it when finished. Why is that not possible without wearing gloves?
The carers who feel they have to wear gloves when giving me a bottle must be pretty incompetent if they think spillage is likely when it is next to impossible. And what does it say about the carers who won’t carry a commode bowl without gloves because it contains faeces or hold a shower without gloves because they are rinsing out said bowl? They are hardly immersing their hands in the stuff, so what’s the problem? Personally, I would be reluctant to employ such a person because their lack of confidence or ability in this aspect of their work could affect other areas.
One can only speculate on the reasons, of course, but I am forced to wonder if the world has gone mad. Have people abandoned common sense in their pursuit of “safety”?
I have shown that wearing gloves for non-clinical use is unnecessary. Someone has to pay for all these gloves and although I don’t know the full cost, I’ll wager it is considerable. At a time when people are protesting about cuts, should we be spending money on something as useless as non-sterile gloves? I don’t think so.
I blame people like Linda Nazarko (in the previous article) for perpetuating the myth that all body fluids are hazardous in all circumstances. Some people drink fresh urine, for goodness sake, so how hazardous is that? Quite obviously there are many situations where gloves are unnecessary when handling body fluids and teachers like Linda should explain what they are.
Linda does make some good points, though, but they appear to go unheeded. Perhaps the nursing profession will try and inject some common sense into the situation but I doubt it because they are as guilty as anybody of promoting the inappropriate use of gloves.
So, stop being delusional and forget reasons like hygiene and modesty and just be honest - admit gloves are worn because you don’t want to get your hands dirty and you are too lazy to wash them. Stop wearing gloves in inappropriate circumstances and wash your hands to save some money.