Archive April 2014 XV, No. 4

How to Create a Latex-Safe Facility

Rather than trying to rid your facility of latex, treat all your staff and patients as if they have a latex allergy.

Louise DeChesser, RN, CNOR, MS


latex free

Would you describe your facility as latex-free? I'd probably need just a few minutes inside your ORs to prove otherwise. I bet I'd find a loose rubber band lying around or some surgical supply that you'd be surprised to know contains latex. So while it's nearly impossible to be truly latex-free, you can and should certainly strive to be latex-safe. When you can say that you're latex-safe, it means you do your best to rid your facility of latex-containing products. Here are 5 steps you can take today.

1. Treat all patients as if they have a latex allergy. The continuity of practice is critical. You never know what allergies patients are walking in with, and sometimes they don't know, so don't assume anything. A good rule-of-thumb: Assume every patient (and staff member) who walks through your doors has a latex allergy. If you standardize and treat everybody the same way, you'll have less opportunity for safety fallout.

2. Take a complete inventory. Look beyond just what you consider clinical products, and keep an eye out for outliers. For example, if you're putting an armband on a patient, it may have latex on it. Maybe that's something you don't think about, because an armband isn't typically considered a clinical product. Another example: if you have a Jackson-Pratt Drain and use an elastic wrap to hold it against something, that elastic could contain latex. It's these little things patients come in contact with that you can't forget about. Conducting a complete assessment may prove difficult, as facilities use so many products. To help with the process, organize a latex treasure hunt. Empower your staff to try to find anything they think could contain latex. Your staff handles products every day, so it's worth tapping into their knowledge and experience. This hunt should be ongoing as you'll likely find products with latex in them as you go through your supply stock.

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