Are you glove aware?

Gloves and other PPE are essential in protecting ourselves and our patients, but how can we think about our glove use in a sustainable way to ensure we also protect the planet?

Gloves used in laboratory

Glove Awareness Week

This week the Royal College of Nursing highlights how unnecessary glove use impacts the environment. Wearing gloves has become second nature over the past couple of years however, in many situations effective hand hygiene can be just as effective as glove use.

When to glove up

The NHS and social care industry uses 5.5 billion single use gloves annually, generating a large amount of waste. It’s key to ensure that we only use gloves in necessary situations, such as those listed below:

  • During contact with blood/bodily fluids, non-intact skins, or mucus membranes. In contact with chemical hazards, such as disinfectants, preserving agents, or cytotoxic drugs.
  • When in an operating theatre or carrying out a high risk procedure, in these scenarios, it is recommended to double glove.

This will help to reduce the amount of waste we generate and ensure we follow our Sustainable Healthcare Principles by Respecting Resources to lessen our environmental impact.

A patient centered approach

While we make an effort to reduce our glove use, it’s important to reassure patients that effective hand washing is taking place and that staff only need to wear gloves in specific situations to avoid certain risks.

Make one change to reduce your glove use

Glove Awareness Week Cartoon Graphic

The Royal College of Nursing has put together a list of scenarios where gloves are optional. You can support reducing waste by not using gloves in the following situations:

  • to give vaccinations
  • when feeding people
  • when entering a patient’s home
  • automatically when giving IV medication
  • when comforting patients

Additional benefits

Excessive glove use can also be harmful to hands and can cause dry/inflamed skin or dermatitis. Wearing gloves less and ensuring our hands are regularly moisturised (with emollients) will reduce this risk and improve the condition of the skin.

Also, wearing gloves excessively can prevent hand hygiene. By reducing the number of gloves we use and washing hands more frequently, we can reduce the risk of spreading infection. Again we see how being sustainable is also good for our health and wellbeing, it is a win-win.