Is Poor Glove Use Be Placing Your Service Users at Risk of Norovirus?

Recent weeks have seen the number of Norovirus cases increasing across the UK, with dozens of hospital wards closed and some NHS trusts closing whole departments in order to redeploy staff. This common gastrointestinal bug can cause severe diarrhoea and vomiting which can be debilitating in older people and often spreads rapidly, particularly in hospitals and care homes. An outbreak within your care home this winter is likely to cause substantial disruption and distress to everyone living and working there so it’s essential that you take every reasonable precaution to avoid this situation.

American research has suggested that one key area of practice that can lead to infectious outbreaks is the incorrect use of protective gloves. A study, from the University of Iowa, reviewed the use of gloves in care homes and found inappropriate glove use to be commonplace. Using the Glove Use Surveillance Tool (GUST), the authors found that carers failed to change gloves at 66% of glove change points, meaning that the same gloves were often used for multiple tasks and could potentially contaminate surfaces and transmit harmful viruses and bacteria to other service users.

The project lead, Deborah Patterson-Burdsall, said “Glove use behaviour is as important as hand washing when it comes to infection prevention” and recommended that glove use should be monitored alongside hand hygiene and the findings shared with the staff involved.

Read on to learn how you can ensure effective glove use amongst your team and help avoid a norovirus outbreak this winter.

Correct Glove Use

Protective gloves are routinely provided within all care homes but, unless they’re used correctly, their effectiveness is limited. As well as making gloves available, you must ensure that staff know and follow appropriate guidelines for their use, in particular, when to change and how to dispose of them.

Reduce the Risk of a Norovirus Outbreak: Your 4-Point Guide to Effective Glove Use 

  1. Change gloves after every contact: Carers must understand that gloves should always be removed and disposed of at the end of a task in order to prevent the transmission of infection. Washing gloved hands is no substitute and some detergents and alcohol gels can actually damage gloves.
  2. Wash hands between use: Dirty hands can easily contaminate clean gloves if hands are not cleaned between use. Gloves often develop small tears meaning that hands may come into contact with body fluids during care so using alcohol gel or washing with soap and water between glove changes will reduce the risk.
  3. Audit glove use: You may already carry out hand hygiene audits but auditing glove use is just as important. Observing staff practice whilst personal care is being given will provide useful information about glove use that can improve your infection control practice.
  4. Share your findings: Ensure that the results of your audits are shared with your team so that findings can be embedded into practice. Engrained habits can be challenged and good practice shared to help all of your team work to the same high standard.

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