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Do's and don'ts of wearing gloves: curb waste and avoid skin problems

To mark Glove Awareness Week, nurses are advised to change their daily routine by reducing glove use, with a warning that overuse can cause skin problems
Picture shows an injection being given by someone wearing gloves

To mark Glove Awareness Week, nurses are advised to change their daily routine by reducing glove use, with a warning that overuse can cause skin problems

Glove Awareness Week this week is being marked with an appeal to nurses to change their daily routine by reducing unnecessary glove use.

Safely reducing the use of gloves will make healthcare more sustainable, says the RCN, which is encouraging nurses to be aware of when they do not need to wear gloves to help cut back on plastic waste.

RCN professional lead for infection prevention and control Rose Gallagher said the pandemic had shifted attitudes about wearing gloves. She said: ‘Nursing staff have always instinctively turned to examination

To mark Glove Awareness Week, nurses are advised to change their daily routine by reducing glove use, with a warning that overuse can cause skin problems

Picture shows an injection being given by someone wearing gloves
Picture: iStock

Glove Awareness Week this week is being marked with an appeal to nurses to change their daily routine by reducing unnecessary glove use.

Safely reducing the use of gloves will make healthcare more sustainable, says the RCN, which is encouraging nurses to be aware of when they do not need to wear gloves to help cut back on plastic waste.

RCN professional lead for infection prevention and control Rose Gallagher said the pandemic had shifted attitudes about wearing gloves. She said: ‘Nursing staff have always instinctively turned to examination gloves as a first line of protection, and the pandemic saw a massive increase in their use.

Reducing glove use can increase sustainability in health and care services

‘They are, however, not always necessary and their overuse can lead to long-term and sometimes permanent damage to the hands. Taking steps to make one change and reducing the use of gloves can also play a huge part in reducing waste and increasing sustainability in health and care services.’

As a nurse, wearing gloves is an essential part of delivering safe care and infection control. But wearing them when they are unnecessary can be dangerous to the patient, the nurse and the environment.

With glove use skyrocketing in healthcare settings from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, now more than ever nurses are being asked to consider whether they should be wearing a pair for the task in hand.

When should you wear gloves?

Gloves should be used:

  • When in contact with blood or other fluid, broken skin or mucous membranes.
  • When a nurse uses substances that are chemical hazards such as disinfectants, preserving agents or cytotoxic drugs.
  • All activities that have been assessed as carrying a risk of exposure to blood or body fluid
  • When handling sharps or contaminated devices

When don’t I need to wear gloves?

  • Routine linen change (no body fluids)
  • Wash patient’s face
  • Assist patient to dress
  • Walk with patient to bathroom
  • Feed a patient
  • Neurological observations
  • Mobilise a patient
  • Take blood pressure, pulse, temperature
  • Accompany patient round hospital

The downside of too much glove wearing

Overuse of gloves can cause painful sores and cracks on the skin of the hands making it hard to carry out tasks.

Work-related contact dermatitis disproportionately affects the nursing profession, and can be caused by frequent exposure to water, cleaning agents and overuse or underuse of gloves.

Last month a survey by Nursing Standard revealed half of nurses had experienced skin damage due to work in the past two years, including dry, itchy or painful reactions to gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

Inappropriate glove use, such as not changing gloves often enough, can also prevent effective hand hygiene and can put patients at risk of infection.

To avoid sore hands gloves should only be put on when the hands are thoroughly dry after washing or using alcohol rub.

They should be removed when you are no longer in contact with blood or body fluids, broken skin, mucous membranes or hazardous chemicals, and as soon as they are suspected of being damaged.


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