Over-reliance on gloves leads to poor worker hand hygiene

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Over-reliance on gloves leads to poor worker hand hygiene
Over-reliance on gloves leads to poor worker hand hygiene
Healthcare workers who wear gloves when treating patients are less likely to wash their hands between patients, a British study finds.

Experts acknowledge that wearing gloves is appropriate when workers know contact with bodily fluids is likely, but the study suggests healthcare workers appear to be substituting glove use for additional hand hygiene protocols.

“The chances of hands being cleaned before or after patient contact appear to be substantially lower if gloves were being worn,” said Sheldon Stone, M.D., of the Royal Free Hospital NHS Trust Healthcare, who led the research team.

Stone and his colleagues observed more than 7,000 patient contacts in 56 ICUs and geriatric care units in 15 hospitals. They found that proper hand hygiene compliance rates were “disappointingly” low, at 47.7% — a statistic, experts contend, that contributes to the costs associated with healthcare-associated infections.

Proper hand hygiene protocol includes changing gloves and washing one's hands. Hands can be contaminated by “back spray” when gloves are removed after contact with bodily fluid, researchers said.

Some germs can get through latex gloves, investigators note. Stone and his team suggested that more studies are needed to determine behavioral reasons behind poor hand hygiene habits.

The study, “The Dirty Hand in the Latex Glove: A Study of Hand-Hygiene Compliance When Gloves Are Worn,” was published in the December issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.
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