November 7, 2008
The myths and facts of glove use

The proper use of gloves plays a vital role in helping prevent the spread of infections at the MGH. Below are some common myths and facts regarding glove use to help staff better understand the MGH's requirements regarding this important hand hygiene practice.

Myth: It is OK to wear gloves in public areas.
Fact: Gloves should not be worn in public areas such as elevators and hallways. There are some exceptions for certain employees, such as unit service associates, who wear gloves while working in public areas. These employees should change gloves and practice hand hygiene when moving from dirty to clean tasks.

Myth: It is OK to wear gloves when transporting a patient.
Fact: Gloves always should be removed and hand hygiene performed before transporting a patient because gloves can contaminate the hospital environment. The transporter may wipe the surfaces of the stretcher or wheelchair with a Super Sani-Cloth to ensure cleanliness. An employee who is providing direct care for a patient during transport may wear gloves as long as he or she does not touch any environmental surfaces such as door plates or elevator buttons. Another employee should be designated to touch these surfaces.

Myth: Gloves can be used as a substitute for hand hygiene.
Fact: Gloves are never a substitute for hand hygiene, which should be performed both before gloves are worn and after they are removed. The reasons for this include:
•  Gloves could be contaminated by unclean hands as they are picked up.
•   Gloves are not 100 percent effective in preventing hand contamination.
•   The warm environment within gloves can promote the growth of germs.
•  Gloves could contain imperfections that are invisible to the naked eye.
•  Hands can become contaminated as gloves are removed.

The same pair of gloves can be worn for multiple patients or tasks.
Fact: Gloves should be changed and hand hygiene performed between dirty and clean tasks, even when working with the same patient. Gloves also should be changed between patients, with hand hygiene performed both before and after use.

Myth: Gloves must be worn for all patient contact.
Fact: Gloves are required only in certain situations, such as when an employee anticipates contact with nonintact skin, mucous membranes, blood, body fluids or items contaminated with blood, body fluids or excretions. Gloves may also be required if a patient is on precautions such as Contact Precautions, Contact Precautions Plus or others.

For more information about proper glove use or hand hygiene at the MGH, contact Judy Tarselli, RN, at (617) 726-6330 or

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