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How Health Care Organizations Can Establish and Conduct a Program for a Latex-Safe Environment

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Background: The advent of universal precautions brought about a dramatic increase in the use of natural rubber latex gloves, and reports of rubber latex allergies began appearing in the literature. In 1997 the Johns Hopkins Hospital created the interdisciplinary Latex Task Force to address the issue of creating, implementing, and evaluating a latex-safe environment.

Conversion to nonlatex products and examination gloves: When suitable alternatives were available, all medical products that contained latex were to be removed from the hospital and nonlatex alternatives substituted. Latex medical gloves, especially powdered latex examination gloves, which were used in all patient care areas, were replaced by vinyl gloves. Yet because of the ongoing concern about strike-through and the minimal level of acceptance of fit with the vinyl gloves, the search for alternatives to the vinyl gloves continued. The task force recommended switching to nitrile examination gloves throughout the hospital. To facilitate the transition to another examination glove, new educational pamphlets about the nitrile gloves were developed.

Postscript: The switch to nitrile examination gloves was successfully completed, but conversion to nonlatex surgical gloves was less successful, with costs being the overwhelming impediment. Monitoring of latex-containing products and ongoing evaluations of alternatives are crucial in ensuring patient and health care worker safety.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2003

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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