Nursing Home Worker Glove Use Needs Improvement, Monitoring: Study

Researchers warn that nursing home workers may be placing residents at an increased risk of infections by not changing gloves frequently enough, and by touching surfaces with the gloves that may be contaminated. 

In a study published in this month’s issue of the American Journal of Infection Control researchers from the University of Iowa College of Nursing examined nursing home worker glove use, finding needs for improved practices and greater monitoring.

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), which publishes the journal, issued a press release on September 7, saying that the behavior seen in the study may be a significant factor in the spread of nursing home infections.

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Researchers looked at glove use by 74 Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) working at one long-term care facility. They looked at the assistants’ glove use behavior when performing toileting and perineal care.

According to the findings, 80% of the CNAs wore gloves as appropriate during touch points. However, 66.4% failed to change gloves when they should, such as between patients, after touching blood or other bodily fluids, after they completed a patient task and after they had touched a surface that could be contaminated.

The researchers warned that the failed glove changes could lead to infectious agents being passed from one patient to another, or could help an infectious agent on a patient find a vector into the body. They called for future studies to look for strategies to improve glove use, which they say could reduce the number of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs).

“Gloves are an essential component of standard precautions, and proper use of gloves is a critical component of best practices to prevent HAIs,” APIC President Linda Greene said in the press release. “This is especially important in long-term care, where residents are more vulnerable to infection and stay for extended periods. Facilities must continually educate healthcare providers about the importance of appropriate glove use to prevent infection and monitor adherence to this practice.”

The lead study author, Dr. Deborah Patterson Burdsall, noted that appropriate glove use was as important as hand washing in preventing infections. She noted that more than 44% of the glove touches observed during the study involved potentially contaminated sites and highlights the high potential for cross contamination if gloves are not changed at the appropriate times.

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