“Ooops!” You look down and notice a small hole in the medical glove on your left hand.
Quickly, you strip off the glove and replace it with another one. After adding a second layer of intact gloves and other protective equipment, you follow the doctor into a sterile room to assist with a critical surgical procedure.
For hospital workers, medical gloves are an essential part of your daily equipment. They protect you from harm by shielding the skin on one of the most vulnerable parts of your body. They provide peace of mind, allowing you to focus fully on your tasks without safety concerns. Medical gloves also protect patients and coworkers from the spread of disease or harmful bacteria.
There are several different kinds of disposable gloves available for purchase, including latex, nitrile, and vinyl gloves. For most hospital workers, nitrile gloves are the best choice. Here’s everything you need to know about nitrile gloves and why they are likely the best option for your profession.
Gloves as PPE
All medical professionals wear personal protective equipment, also known as PPE. Some professionals work with chemicals, others with pharmaceutical materials like pills, and others interact with sick or injured people through patient care. Medical gloves protect workers in each of these situations from physical harm.
All disposable medical gloves are meant to be a protective barrier between your skin and the materials you come into contact with at work. However, some gloves are better at maintaining this barrier than others. For example, vinyl gloves are quite thin in comparison with latex or nitrile gloves. Gloves must be flexible and impermeable while allowing you to perform tasks with flexibility and precision.
The gloves you wear also protect patients from harm. When you change your gloves between tasks, you ensure that germs and bacteria don’t spread in your facility. Surgical gloves must pass rigorous tests to ensure they are sterile and acceptable to use in a surgical setting. The quality of your medical gloves directly impacts the quality of patient care.
Types of Disposable Medical Gloves?
Three types of disposable medical gloves that are commonly used for work include vinyl, latex, and nitrile gloves. These are all excellent choices when used for the appropriate tasks.
Each type of glove has different strengths and weaknesses, so the best choice for you depends on your role, budget, and safety concerns.
1. Vinyl Gloves
Vinyl gloves are thin and don’t have much stretch. They are generally loose at the wrist and may tear or puncture easily.
Since their development, vinyl gloves have been used for tasks that have a low risk of contamination or injury. For example, they are commonly used for cleaning with non-toxic chemicals, food preparation, or low-risk patient care.
Vinyl gloves are usually less expensive to purchase than latex or nitrile gloves. However, their environmental impact is high – they actively damage the environment from their production to disposal. As they break down, vinyl gloves release toxic chemicals into the environment and pollute the air, water, and soil.
2. Latex Gloves
Many workers in hospitals and clinical settings use latex gloves. These gloves are thicker than vinyl and more difficult to penetrate.
They can protect you from many types of chemicals, bacteria, viruses, polluted bodily fluids, and other potentially dangerous materials. Latex gloves are also made from a natural material, which means they are kinder to the environment.
Unfortunately, many people are allergic to latex. Because latex allergies are so common, many hospitals offer their employees other types of gloves instead. Your hospital may color-code its gloves so employees know which gloves are latex and which are not.
Latex gloves also have a short shelf-life compared to other types of gloves.
3. Nitrile Gloves
Nitrile gloves are usually the best option in a hospital setting. They are highly comparable to latex gloves but without an allergy issue.
Nitrile gloves are form-fitting and stretch easily without tearing. They provide tactile sensitivity and allow for precise movement while protecting your skin from bacteria, chemicals, and other dangerous substances.
Unfortunately, nitrile gloves aren’t as kind to the environment as latex. However, their long shelf life and protective thickness mean they can be used longer than other types of gloves. Nitrile gloves protect hospital workers while allowing them to perform their work with dexterity and efficiency. Because they are also hypoallergenic, these gloves are ideal for hospital workers.
Types of Nitrile Gloves
Nitrile gloves can be ordered with different specifications to suit your individual needs. For example, they are made in several different levels of thickness and with different textures. Smooth gloves are best suited for small instruments, while textured gloves enhance your ability to grip objects and tools securely.
You can also order gloves with extended wrist lengths for added protection. Many hospitals use blue or white gloves because these colors make it easy to see small rips or tears in the material. However, you can also use different colors to prevent cross-contamination between wards and allergic reactions.
Some nitrile gloves are powdered for comfort, while others are not. According to FDA guidelines, glove powder can cause adverse effects and should not be used in hospital settings. However, nitrile gloves may be chlorinated so they’re easier to take on and off. Chlorinated gloves are a little less pliant.
If you suffer from dry skin, consider purchasing nitrile gloves with aloe vera inside. As hospital workers know, it can be challenging to wear plastic gloves all day. Aloe vera gloves nourish your skin while you wear them, helping to offset any dryness and discomfort. Some nitrile gloves are also sterilized so they are ready for surgical use.
Hospital workers who have specialized tasks may wish to purchase gloves designed specifically to support their work. For example, you can purchase nitrile gloves with particularly thin fingertips for microsurgery. These gloves make it easy for you to feel through them and control your movements. Dental and orthopedic surgery gloves are thicker than usual.
How to Choose the Best Medical Gloves
The best medical gloves for your work will depend on many factors. For example, a doctor who specializes in heart surgery might choose a different kind of glove than a nurse who helps to orient patients after they first arrive at the hospital.
Use this list to help you identify the best type of nitrile glove for you and your work.
1. Safety Concerns
The purpose of wearing gloves is primarily to protect you while on the job. Consider what contaminants you encounter on a daily basis. Are you working with chemicals? Assisting with or completing surgical procedures? What potential dangers do you face throughout the day?
If you use dangerous chemicals or sharp instruments, you should consider purchasing thick nitrile gloves. Thick gloves are also a good idea if you’re in contact with harmful substances for a long period of time. For precision work like surgery, you might choose gloves that support dexterity and tactile sensitivity.
You should also read the fine print to see which chemicals and contaminants a type of glove will protect you from. Medical gloves are specifically designed for different tasks, but they are all different. The most important thing to consider when buying gloves is how effective they’ll be for keeping you safe.
2. Hospital Regulations
Not every decision about appropriate gloves is up to you. Federal law requires surgeons to use sterile gloves for surgical application. Non-surgical gloves can be used for other types of non-invasive care. As previously mentioned, powdered gloves are totally banned from hospital settings due to patient complications.
Glove manufacturers must go through a rigorous testing process in order to market their products as medical-grade to hospitals. These gloves must meet FDA approval and have a good acceptable quality rating (AQR). Batches that pass these tests have few to no flaws and will perform their function safely and efficiently.
Before ordering your gloves, check with hospital management to see if there are any other regulations or restrictions that apply to you. Ordering nitrile gloves will protect you and your patients from a potentially dangerous reaction to latex. Your hospital may also have color or thickness restrictions.
3. Personal Preferences
Finally, consider your personal preferences. Do you function better when you can feel small details through your gloves?
Do your hands suffer from dryness and cracking because of glove use? Think about what problems you face while working and wearing gloves. What specifications might help you overcome those problems?
Nitrile gloves are designed to be useful for a wide range of applications. Regardless of your role in the hospital, it’s wise to choose gloves with a snug fit. This protects you from exposure to dangerous substances and makes it easy for you to use your hands normally. The ideal medical glove acts as a protective second skin.
If budget is a concern, you may be tempted to choose latex instead of nitrile gloves. Although latex gloves offer a variety of benefits, they’re not worth risking an allergic reaction. Nitrile gloves are more than worth the additional cost – they combine secure protection with a long shelf life and come in a variety of styles with different specifications.
Choosing the Best Nitrile Gloves for You
The gloves you wear at work are an important part of your personal protective equipment. They affect your comfort, security, and productivity while on the job. Many hospital workers are exposed to bacteria, disease, and dangerous chemicals on a daily basis.
High-quality medical gloves improve your daily experience and keep you safe for tomorrow.
Out of the three most common types of gloves used in hospitals and medical practices, nitrile gloves are the best option for most hospital workers. These gloves are difficult to penetrate but easy to put on. They have a long shelf life and can be produced to suit many different specifications. Applications for nitrile gloves range from surgery to packing pharmaceutical materials or performing dangerous cleanup.
Use this guide to find the best nitrile gloves for you and your role at the hospital. Start by considering any safety concerns you may have. Then, check with the appropriate authorities to ensure you understand hospital glove regulations.
Finally, consult your own personal preferences to find an ideal glove that supports your everyday experience.
My name is Beth. I’m a health writer with 3+ years of experience, and I run an online wellness magazine, Body+Mind.