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RCN's hands-on approach to glove use

Ahead of World Hand Hygiene day on 5 May, the Royal College of Nursing wants to spread the word about guidance on glove use in clinical settings 

Ahead of World Hand Hygiene day on 5 May, the Royal College of Nursing wants to spread the word about guidance on glove use in clinical settings 


Picture: Alamy

The RCN’s Tools of the Trade guidance was produced for nursing staff to advise them on glove use and the prevention of work-related contact dermatitis.

With the Health and Safety Executive estimating that approximately one in five nurses report work-related skin problems, the guidance was originally developed to give clear guidance on the appropriate use of gloves in clinical settings.

The time has come to update the guidance and use innovative ways to promote it through the medium of a glove awareness week, commencing on 30 April. Using social media, we aim to reinforce our two key messages:

  • The appropriate use of gloves – the right type at the right time.
  • The importance of prevention and early detection of work-related skin problems in nursing staff.

So why is appropriate glove use and good skin health for nursing staff important? From a patient perspective, the RCN is concerned that inappropriate use of gloves may undermine infection prevention strategies, including good hand hygiene. Furthermore, we know that patients can feel stigmatised where there is inappropriate glove use such as wearing gloves to make unsoiled beds.

Secondly, from a staff perspective, it is important that organisations protect nursing staff from work-related skin problems, not only because there is a legal requirement to do so, but because such problems can develop into painful debilitating conditions. These may require nursing staff to be moved out of clinical areas due to infection risks from cracked skin and lesions on their hands.   

Cost implications and things to think about

Taking staff off clinical duties because of inappropriate glove use will have negative implications in terms of costs. At a time of nurse shortages, we cannot afford to lose nursing staff to preventable conditions.

There is also the risk of litigation from personal injury claims where nurses have developed work-related skin problems. Having served a number of improvement notices on NHS organisations for failing to follow health and safety law and manage the skin health of staff, action by the Health and Safety Executive is also a risk.

The week commencing 30 April will see the RCN pilot a glove awareness week, timed to coincide with World Hand Hygiene day on 5 May. In the lead up to the week, the RCN will run a masterclass on 26 April to share good practice. As well as hearing from experts on hand skin health and glove use, we are looking forward to hearing from a host of organisations who will share their innovative practice, including Colchester University Hospital Trust’s The Gloves Are Off campaign and the Nuffield Trust’s Glove Actually campaign.  

Twitter reach

For those who can’t attend the event we will using the week to promote good practice via the RCN’s twitter account @theRCN, and through a twitter chat using #gloveaware.  

We would urge senior nurses to engage in our campaign by letting their organisations know about the week and working with infection prevention and control leads, occupational health and RCN workplace safety reps to share key messages and good practice.

We’d also welcome your support in spreading the messages to the multidisciplinary workforce. Although the campaign is developed by the RCN, the key messages are applicable to all allied health professionals and ancillary staff.

Further information


About the author

Kim Sunley is a national officer (working environment) at the Royal College of Nursing

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