Nurses are being urged to “think twice” before putting on examination gloves to help reduce waste and the risk of skin problems.
The call comes ahead of the Royal College of Nursing’s Glove Awareness Week designed to encourage nurses and other healthcare workers to think more carefully about whether they need to wear gloves or not.
“If we don’t look after our hands we may not be able to look after our patients”
Each year the NHS spends more than £35m on more than 1.5 billion boxes of examination gloves.
Yet, all too often glove use is unnecessary and has been shown to contribute to poor hand hygiene and increase the risk of nasty skin complaints.
Every year around 1,000 healthcare staff develop work-related contact dermatitis of the hands, which can be a painful and debilitating condition that can result in affected nursing staff being moved out of clinical areas due to the risk of infection.
To support nurses to become more “glove aware” the RCN has produced a series of resources including posters, leaflets and a “selfie board” they can use to promote the campaign via social media.
An animated “Journey of a glove” has also been created to show how they are made and emphasise the importance of not wasting them.
Rose Gallagher, RCN professional lead for infection prevention and control, said nurses had a responsibility to look after their own health as well as caring for patients and “that can start with being glove aware”.
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“Ensuring gloves are worn in appropriate circumstances is equally as important as considering when not to wear them,” she said.
She stressed that using gloves should not been seen as a replacement for good hand hygiene.
“With proper washing and moisturising of hands, along with appropriate use of gloves, we can look after our hands as well as preventing the spread of infections,” she said.
“If we don’t look after our hands we may not be able to look after our patients and, ultimately, risk long-term damage to our hands which in some cases can be life-long damage,” she added.