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Archive June 2016 XVII, No. 6

How We Got Rid of Latex Gloves Once and for All

We made the switch years ago, and have never looked back.

Robert Brown, MD, MPH


non-latex gloves UP TO THE CHALLENGE The surgeons who perform microscopic surgeries at Johns Hopkins are perfectly content with the feel of non-latex gloves.

I was nervous the day we made the big switch to all non-latex gloves in our operating rooms. We'd been planning and researching for some time, but on the Monday morning that the big changeover went into effect, I found myself waiting for the barbarians at the gate to explode out of the OR and hunt me down. Then something amazing happened: nothing. No complaints. No threats of mutiny. No one peeling off her gloves and throwing them at me. Nothing. I was shocked. It was so quiet that I got on the phone and started making calls. Is there any problem? Is there anything going on? No, everyone said. Everything went smoothly. That was 9 years ago, and here at Johns Hopkins, we've had no problems since.

Much has happened since then. Providers and the public have grown increasingly aware of — and increasingly concerned about — latex allergies, and many facilities have at least moved in the same direction. Meanwhile, the FDA is proposing an outright ban on powdered latex surgical gloves. But when I talk to colleagues around the country and around the world, what I usually hear is that they still haven't gone all the way. They haven't tried to make their facilities completely latex safe.

Sometimes I get calls, asking for advice: "How did you do it? I've got this surgeon who refuses," or "We have an administrator who says we can't afford it." I'm always happy to help, because I believe the time has come for all providers to go the distance — for the sake of our patients and for us.

All stakeholders
How did we do it? The most important thing we did was make it a team effort. We were able to achieve our goal by first getting all the key players in one room to discuss issues, goals and potential hurdles. Surgeons, nurses, administrators, purchasing agents, risk management — all the stakeholders.

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