Gloves Are No Substitute for Proper Hand Hygiene

Richard T. Ellison III, MD


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In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Healthcare workers frequently neglect hand hygiene when they use gloves.


Although the use of latex gloves by healthcare workers (HCWs) can protect against transmission of pathogens, gloves are subject to perforation, and contamination can occur when the gloves are donned or removed. Consequently, WHO guidelines recommend that gloves be changed between patients and that hands be cleaned both before putting on gloves and after removing them. Investigators recently assessed compliance with these guidelines in 56 wards in 15 hospitals in the U.K. that were participating in a larger national study on HCWs' hand hygiene.

Overall, gloves were used in 26% of 7578 HCW hand-hygiene "moments." They were worn in 17% of low-risk contacts (when they would not have been clinically indicated) but were not worn in 25% of high-risk contacts (when they would have been indicated). The rates of hand-hygiene compliance before and after patient contact were 30% and 47%, respectively, when gloves were worn — significantly lower than those observed when gloves were not worn (40% and 52%).


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