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The Final Steps in Converting a Health Care Organization to a Latex-Safe Environment

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Background: In a follow-up to a previous article, which described the approach at The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions to establishing a latex-safe environment, subsequent efforts to convert all the sterile gloves to nonlatex products and thereby complete the implementation of a latex-safe program are reported. Before the complete conversion to nonlatex sterile gloves, operating room use had increased to approximately one-third of our total sterile glove use during the preceding four years.

New Approaches to Converting to All Nonlatex Sterile Gloves: The final stages of the conversion involved both consistent follow-through with education, training, and personnel involvement at all levels and a change in the culture of the medical facility. New and improved nonlatex glove products were coming to the market, and their costs were decreasing because of increased supply and competition.

Glove Trials: Five synthetic neoprene or polyisoprene gloves—two from one manufacturer and three from the second manufacturer—were evaluated in glove trials. Overall, by manufacturer, a similar rate of acceptance among the various sterile nonlatex gloves (74.2% versus 78.1%) was found. However, to ensure that all users were satisfied, contracts were awarded to both vendors. The weekend before the conversion date of May 1, 2007, all old powdered sterile latex gloves were replaced with the new stock of nonlatex sterile gloves.

The Conversion Process: Once financial and logistical concerns were addressed, conversion to a latex-safe environment entailed readying the organization for the change in organizational culture. Key factors were (1) general acceptance from all the chiefs of the surgical departments; (2) centralization for all purchases of medical supplies, including sterile gloves, through corporate purchasing; and (3) ongoing education and vigilance.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2009

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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.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

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