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New training will help nurses avoid skin damage from gloves while reducing waste

Free online course for all care settings will help nurses protect against skin irritation while reducing use of gloves to lessen impact on the environment
Picture of inappropriate glove use - a nurse wearing gloves fills in a form

Free online course for all care settings will help nurses protect against skin irritation while reducing use of gloves to lessen impact on the environment

A new online course has been launched to help nurses reduce their glove use in a bid to protect against skin irritation and reduce the impact on the environment.

The non-sterile disposable glove use fundamentals resource will teach participants when and when not to use gloves safely. Glove use became more widespread during the pandemic, creating a reliance on gloves that is not always supported by evidence.

Free online course for all care settings will help nurses protect against skin irritation while reducing use of gloves to lessen impact on the environment

Picture of inappropriate glove use - a nurse wearing gloves fills in a form
Picture: Guzelian

A new online course has been launched to help nurses reduce their glove use in a bid to protect against skin irritation and reduce the impact on the environment.

The non-sterile disposable glove use fundamentals resource will teach participants when and when not to use gloves safely. Glove use became more widespread during the pandemic, creating a reliance on gloves that is not always supported by evidence.

The course, designed by the RCN in collaboration with nurses and NHS England, covers the principles of glove use including why and when to wear them, as well as how to make the use of gloves more sustainable.

It also shares key information and resources to help users recognise and understand skin health issues. The course is free to access and is designed for all staff and care settings.

Training will help nurses to understand best ways to reduce glove use and share best practice

RCN professional lead for infection prevention and control Rose Gallagher said overuse of gloves can lead to long-term or permanent damage to the hands, as well as undermining hand hygiene.

‘This new course is simple to follow and will play an important role in helping nursing staff to understand the best ways to reduce glove use where safe to do as well as sharing best practice,’ she said.

When gloves should be used – and when they’re not needed

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
  • During all activities that have been assessed as carrying a risk of exposure to blood or body fluid
  • When handling sharps or contaminated devices

Gloves don’t need to be used:

  • Doing a routine linen change (no body fluids)
  • Washing a patient’s face
  • Assisting a patient to dress
  • Walking with a patient to the bathroom
  • Feeding a patient
  • During neurological observations
  • When mobilising a patient
  • When taking blood pressure, pulse, temperature
  • When accompanying a patient round the hospital

A staggering 12.7 billion gloves were sent for use in the NHS and social care in England alone between 25 February 2020 and 31 March 2022. This compares with 1.7 billion in 2019.

As well as being unsustainable, overuse of gloves can lead to painful cracks and sores on hands that can make it difficult to carry out daily duties.

A survey by Nursing Standard earlier this year revealed that half of nurses have 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.


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