RCN warns of glove ‘overuse’ and calls on nursing staff to reduce usage

It comes and NHS glove use hits record levels due to the ongoing pandemic. 

James McKay
3 May 2021

The “inappropriate and overuse” of gloves carries risks, they have warned.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is today warning nursing staff about the impact of “inappropriate” and “overuse” of gloves.

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Kicking-off Glove Awareness Week the College is reminding nursing staff that regular hand washing is an effective way to protect patients and staff.

With millions of examination gloves used in health and care every year, the RCN is warning that while gloves form part of value personal protective equipment, “inappropriate and overuse” of gloves carries its own risk, not only of infection but also damage to the hands and the environment.

Nursing staff are now being urged to reduce their glove use safely and “make one change” that would protect their hands while still keeping them and their patients safe.

Suggestions to reduce glove use and improve hand care include; only using gloves when needed, not immediately putting on gloves for every interaction with a patient and using emollient creams after hand-washing to protect the hands.

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Often worn when not necessary.

Rose Gallagher, RCN Professional Lead for Infection Prevention and Control, said: “The pandemic demonstrated very clearly the importance of the right protective equipment. It has also, however, demonstrated the reality and risks of wearing it for extended periods of time.

“Gloves are an integral part of that protection, but they can be over-used and often worn when they are not necessary. This can lead to long term, and sometimes permanent, damage to the hands.

“If nursing staff could make just one change to reduce their reliance on gloves it could help prevent damage to hands while still protecting patients and our planet’s resources.”

RCN National Officer Kim Sunley added; “We have seen how easily frequent handwashing can lead to and exacerbate contact dermatitis of the hands.

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“Ultimately this can become painful and restrictive and can see nursing staff needing to move out of clinical areas due to the risk of infection. For some nursing staff, the condition can become very debilitating and make it difficult to carry on nursing.”

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