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Archive November 2017 XVIII, No. 11

Thinking of Buying ... Non-Latex Gloves

How to get your team to switch to the safer alternative.

Joe Madsen

Joe Madsen, Associate Editor


gloves FIT-AND-FEEL TRIALS Let every member of the surgical team trial non-latex models.

When non-latex gloves hit the market about 20 years ago, they were noticeably different from their latex counterparts — and not in a good way. They were tougher, stiffer, more prone to tearing, and less tactile and sensitive, too. They were also harder to double-glove, which frustrated many. Plus, with the price of non-latex considerably higher than latex, many didn't see the value in switching to a less satisfying product.

But in response to a surge in latex allergies among both patients and providers, glove manufacturers have steadily answered all of these concerns over the years — including the price disparity. Today's non-latex gloves hold their own against latex in terms of sensitivity, tactility and certainly durability. Still, you can expect some pushback from surgeons and staff who might be wary of non-latex gloves when you set out to make a full or partial conversion.

"The most common complaints about non-latex gloves are still that people aren't used to them," says Robert Brown, MD, professor of anesthesiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Md. "Some surgeons say they can't work as well as they do with latex."

Don't expect the switch to non-latex to magically happen overnight. It took Sam Sullivan, RN, 3 years to convert the University of Rochester (N.Y.) Medical Center exclusively to non-latex gloves. Only when he couched the issue in its most crucial tenet of safety did non-latex really catch on with staff, says Mr. Sullivan.

Gloves touch all OR team members, but keep in mind that surgeons can become very attached to their gloves and highly emotional if you ask them to switch. For some, there is no other glove but the one they trained in, the one they're used to, the one they like.

"It takes a whole systemic change, right through to purchasing," says Robert Hamilton, PhD, a professor of pathology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

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