Ask the Expert – Clinical Q&A:

The Ins and Outs of Gloves

Gloves are not just a simple accessory worn by healthcare providers; they are vital to infection control and patient safety, providing the first line of defence in healthcare settings.

We spoke with Medline Canada’s expert, Ben Dodington, Senior Product Manager, to explore the four pillars of Medline’s glove portfolio: breadth of offering, supply chain, ethical sourcing, quality and cost-effectiveness.

Afterward, we sat down with glove expert Ruby Hartsell, Senior Director of Clinical and Training Services, who shared valuable best practices for healthcare providers.

Q: Why is it important for a glove manufacturer to offer a wide range of glove types and sizes within their portfolio? How does this benefit both healthcare providers and patients?

Ben: Within a healthcare facility, gloves are used in various settings, each requiring a different level of protection, feel and fit. By offering a wide variety of glove options, Medline is able to ensure that the unique needs of each department and individual are met. Limited breadth or availability may result in glove recommendations or glove usage in some departments that are not best suited to the task being performed, such as lack of tactile sensitivity or improper levels of protection.

Q:Why partner with Medline from a supply chain perspective? How can a diversified supply chain contribute to the resilience of a medical glove portfolio, especially during times of high demand or supply chain disruptions?

Ben: Medline maintains a robust supply chain strategy by stocking more than three to six months' worth of inventory to ensure uninterrupted supply and to meet the demand for exam gloves. Our extensive network includes over 50 manufacturing facilities in seven countries, diversifying our supply sources and guarding against potential disruptions caused by natural disasters or economic uncertainties in any location.

Q:What key quality indicators should healthcare professionals look for in exam and surgical gloves?

Ben: One of the most important factors in glove quality is consistency. Medline does trend analysis on every point of sale we produce and holds our gloves to 40 percent more stringent Acceptable Quality Levels (AQL) than Health Canada requirements and industry standards. Medline’s strict AQL requirements mean that customers receive a more consistent product with a reduced risk of defects or micro-perforations in their gloves.  

Q:How do you help customers reduce waste?

Ben: Medline has numerous waste reduction initiatives, including our two newest patented technologies: Glide-On vinyl gloves and SmartBoX™ packaging.

It takes an estimated 28 seconds to put on a standard clear vinyl glove, and 20 percent of the time, these gloves will rip or tear in the process, resulting in unusable gloves, lost time and frustration. Medline’s Glide-On Powder-Free Vinyl Exam Gloves have a special coating that helps to pull the gloves on faster — on average, in just 14 seconds — with rips and tears occurring just three percent of the time. For every 1,500 clear vinyl gloves, 300 may be wasted. With Glide-On, glove waste decreases to just 45 gloves.

Medline’s innovative glove packaging — the SmartBoX — includes a proprietary insert that propels gloves toward the box opening to minimize lost product when gloves are pulled from the box. The patent-pending design keeps gloves at the top, making pulling a single glove out easier every time, maximizing glove utilization and decreasing glove waste by 33 percent. With the implementation of SmartBoX, a 200-bed hospital using two million gloves a month could save 66,000 gloves a month.

Q:When selecting gloves for a specific medical procedure (exam or surgical), what factors should healthcare professionals consider to ensure the right glove type and material are chosen?

Ruby: The number one consideration is the type of task being undertaken. Is a sterile glove required, or will a non-sterile suit the task? If you’re working in a non-sterile environment, an exam glove may be most appropriate, while a sterile glove will always be required to carry out a sterile procedure. Although more and more healthcare facilities are moving all items to latex-free materials, there are still facilities that carry some latex surgical gloves. It is very important that care is taken not to use latex gloves if the end-user or the patient has latex sensitivity or a latex allergy.

Is the task a heavier one or more delicate? That may influence whether you will choose a thicker surgical glove versus a thinner one that will allow greater tactile sensitivity for use in more delicate procedures.

Tasks undertaken in a non-sterile environment allow the use of a medical or exam glove. Again, for a heavier task, a nitrile material endures the challenge with less risk of compromise than vinyl. The use of chemotherapeutic agents has become much more prevalent, and the use of nitrile exam gloves that have been chemo-tested is a strong consideration in the choice of non-sterile gloves.

Q:Do you want to highlight any specific recommendations for glove usage?

Ruby: All guidelines pertaining to surgical procedures recommend double-gloving with sterile surgical gloves. Medline has several options that allow the use of the under glove to be of a darker colour glove under the top glove to aid in the detection of potential damage to the top glove while in use. Double gloving is recommended in all invasive procedures.

When choosing a glove, consider the task. Heavier surgical gloves are available for use in orthopedics, while lighter gloves allow enhanced tactile sensitivity when doing more delicate surgical procedures. Changing the top glove after 90 min is a best practice to maintain the barrier integrity of a surgical glove.

When choosing the glove, be sure it has a comfortable fit and can handle the type of work. Always wash hands on doffing the gloves and pay attention to skin condition as an end user. Using moisturizers and gloves enhanced with aloe and oatmeal lining the inner surface supports healthy hands and improves overall hand hygiene.

Click for more information on Medline’s line of glove products.