Shepard Medical Products CEO, Chris Wright, is featured in this month’s Elements Magazine by PBA Health discussing how to choose the right medical gloves for your pharmacy. The entire issue is available for viewing online here: https://www.pbahealth.com/elements/issues/
How to Choose the Right Medical Gloves for Your Pharmacy
June 9, 2015
All gloves are created equal.
That’s the biggest misconception pharmacists have about medical gloves, according to Chris Wright, CEO of Shepard Medical Products, a company that develops infection protection products.
Instead, each material—latex, vinyl, nitrile or synthetic—offers protection for different situations.
“A pharmacist needs to know, ‘How am I going to use this product?’” Wright said. If you’re using—or selling—the wrong type of gloves for the task, you might be inadvertently putting yourself, your staff or your patients in harm’s way.
What to look for
When it comes to purchasing medical gloves, there’s one word you need to look for.
“The key word is ‘examination,’” Wright said. “If it doesn’t have ‘examination’ or ‘exam’ on the package, you really don’t want it. Often times I find pharmacies have gloves that say ‘latex gloves’ or ‘disposal gloves’ but if they don’t have the words ‘exam’ or ‘examination’ on them, it’s a product that’s not suitable for infection protection.”
Gloves labeled “examination” or “exam” are medical grade gloves. They’re vigorously tested and meet the standards set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “The glove has to pass the water-leak test, the elongation test, and the tensile strength test,” Wright said.
The powder problem
Powdered gloves may be easier to get on, but you should always choose powder-free gloves for your pharmacy.
Powdered gloves are usually banned in nursing homes, continued care facilities and hospitals because they increase the chance of spreading infection.
“When handling drugs in a pharmacy, those chemicals are on the surface of the glove,” Wright said. “When you take a powdered glove off, anything that’s on your hands is now in the air and you’re breathing it in.”
Types of Gloves
Vinyl gloves are low-cost and offer basic protection against infection, but keep in mind that the thinner the glove, the more likely it is to tear.
“There are all levels of quality and thickness, and vinyl gloves are at the lower end of that spectrum,” Wright said. “The thinner you go—down to about 4 mils in thickness—the more likely they are to tear.”
“If you just want to keep your hands clean from infection, then almost any exam glove will do the job,” Wright said. This includes latex gloves.
One problem with latex gloves, however, is that the material can cause allergy concerns, especially when the glove is powdered.
“When you take off a powdered latex glove, the powder and the antigens from the rubber are released into the air,” Wright said. “People can have anaphylactic shock syndrome as a result of breathing the air where rubber gloves were being used.”
Even if none of your employees are allergic to latex, patients might be, and latex allergens go into the air even with powder-free gloves.
When purchasing a latex glove to stock in your front end for first aid or wound treatment, Wright recommends looking for a latex glove that is powder-free and polymer coated.
“Vytrile is a unique synthetic,” Wright said. “It’s softer, more flexible, and has greater tactility than a vinyl glove.” Vytrile offers three times the amount of strength as vinyl gloves, too.
Vytrile is a great hypoallergenic substitute for latex. “It’s a safe alternative to latex, but closer to latex than vinyl,” Wright said. “For a very nominal difference in cost, you could choose Vytrile over vinyl and have a better product that offers complete protection from viral penetration and alcohol permeation.” Vytrile is also powder-free.
Vytrile gloves work well for general first aid use and for administering vaccinations.
For the highest level of protection, Wright recommends using nitrile gloves. “There isn’t another glove that has greater non-permeability factors to it,” he said.
The synthetic material is good for several applications in the pharmacy. “Nitrile is good for chemotherapy, home infusion, compounding, or handling drugs inside the pharmacy,” he said.
While nitrile gloves are marginally more expensive, they offer superior protection. And according to Wright, when pharmacies choose gloves based on price alone, they put themselves at risk.
“If you’re really sincere about protecting yourself, your employees and your customers from infection or from contamination from drugs, you want the best possible protection you can get, and that means you pay a little more,” he said.
The right fit
When choosing a glove, pharmacists often make a common mistake—size.
“Everybody thinks they need to be skintight,” said Chris Wright, CEO of Shepard Medical Products. “But when you’re wearing a glove all day long, you want to wear a glove that’s loose fitting.”
Exam gloves are molded with the thumb straight up. And because your thumb isn’t naturally in that position, a too-tight glove can cause pressure and tension, creating thumb fatigue.
“The second problem with tight gloves is that they tear more easily because they’re under stress,” he said. “If you touch something that’s just the least bit sharp, it will penetrate the glove more easily.”