A new study identifies the failure to change gloves as a significant factor in the spread of dangerous pathogens in nursing homes and long-term care facilities (LTCF). The study from the University of Iowa College of Nursing was published in the September issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, the journal of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).
The number of infections that occur each year in the nation’s long term care facilities is estimated to be between 1.6 and 3.8 million resulting in 388,000 fatalities. In terms of economics, these infections cost between $673 million and $2 billion every year. In most LTCFs, certified nursing assistants provide the majority of patient care. Incorrect glove usage by these healthcare professionals can easily lead to the spread of pathogens from patient to patient and in the environment. These pathogens then develop into healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).
Long-term care patients are more susceptible to infection and because they have longer stays in care facilities, they are more at risk. According to lead study author, Deborah Patterson Burdsall, PhD, RN-BC, CIC, using gloves are vital when it comes to preventing germs from spreading into infectious diseases. Her study was the first of its kind and researchers frequently observed certified nursing assistants that failed to change their gloves at standard precautionary points. When the gloves have touched blood or body fluids, after completing a patient task, in between patients, and after the gloves touch a potentially contaminated surface are all points where gloves should be changed.
In the study, gloves were readily available in public areas, shower rooms, patient rooms, and patient bathrooms to the certified nursing assistants on duty. Although gloves were being worn for 80 percent of touchpoints, researchers noted that at 66 percent of glove change points, the certified nursing assistants continued using the gloves they already had on. They observed contaminated glove touch points more than 44 percent of the time. The study shows how much potential exists for cross contamination between patients and the healthcare environment, all from incorrect glove use.
Burdsall concludes that the study shows a definite need for the monitoring of glove use behavior the same way hand hygiene is tracked in healthcare facilities. To prevent the spread of infection, training programs must be developed to educate healthcare workers about the importance of proper glove use in patient care.
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