20 September 2017

One dangerous habit nursing home workers should not follow

New research has found that nursing home workers don't change their gloves often enough.

Gloves serve to protect us against germs that could cause infections.

Yet, nursing home workers often fail to change their gloves when they should, which increases the risk of patient infections, a new study finds.

As important as hand washing

"Glove use behaviour is as important as hand washing when it comes to infection prevention," lead study author Deborah Patterson Burdsall said.

"These findings indicate that glove use behaviour should be monitored alongside hand hygiene. The observations should be shared with staff to improve behaviours and reduce the risk of disease transmission," said Burdsall, from the University of Iowa College of Nursing.

Her team assessed inappropriate glove use among 74 certified nursing assistants performing everyday tasks such as toileting care. These assistants are often the main providers of care in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Inappropriate glove use was defined as a failure to change gloves and touching surfaces with contaminated gloves.

Gloves readily available

The assistants in the study wore gloves for 80% of touches, but failed to change gloves at 66% of glove change points. More than 44% of the gloved touches were contaminated, and all contaminated touches were with gloved hands.

The researchers noted that gloves were readily available on all units in public areas, shower rooms, patient rooms and patient bathrooms. Gloves should be changed in-between patients, after touching blood or body fluids; after completing a patient task; and after the gloves touch a potentially contaminated site.

The study appears in the September issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, the journal of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

"Gloves are an essential component of standard precautions, and proper use of gloves is a critical component of best practices to prevent [health care-associated infections]," APIC President Linda Greene said in an association news 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 health care providers about the importance of appropriate glove use to prevent infection and monitor adherence to this practice," Greene said.

Image credit: iStock