The medical supply chain for personal protective equipment (PPE), particularly nitrile patient exam gloves used for nonsurgical purposes in hospitals and healthcare settings, has been under stress during the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent vaccination drive.
The vast majority of nitrile gloves have been produced in the Asian region, which has led to supply chain issues through 20201. Health workers change gloves with each new patient and providers continue to experience ongoing shortages, so gloves remain in high demand in health systems2. GPOs, distributors and medical consumers want gloves to be sourced from new domestic locations rather than having manufacturing centralized in one region3.
In July 2021, Honeywell and healthcare improvement company Premier Inc. launched a five-year partnership to increase the domestic supply of nitrile gloves for medical use4. Through this partnership, access to U.S.-made patient exam gloves for hospitals, clinics and other healthcare providers will expand and at least 750 million nitrile patient exam gloves will be produced in the first year alone. 80 of Premier’s members pre-committed to buy this domestic production for 5 years going forward.
According to Praveen Reddy, president of Honeywell’s personal protective equipment business, “Honeywell and Premier share a commitment to increase the domestic production capacity for safety solutions to help to protect American healthcare workers.”
Protection for the Healthcare Provider and the Patient
With increased demand for nitrile exam gloves5, it’s important to remember why hand protection against transmission of infections is needed.
Medical PPE like gloves and other equipment plays a crucial role in healthcare professionals’ safety and health as they come into contact with harmful substances or objects all shift long. The primary reason to wear gloves in healthcare environments is to protect both the patient and the provider by preventing the transmission of infection via the hands6.
When working in a medical environment, the skin on the hands is exposed to a wide range of hazards, from biological and chemical to mechanical. Hazards such as blood and bodily fluids, infectious pathogens acquired by contact transfer, handling sharp objects or harsh chemicals are frequently met in medical settings such as hospitals, laboratories or dental clinics.
Why Nitrile Gloves?
There are several types of chemical-resistant gloves, made from different kinds of rubber (natural rubber, butyl, nitrile, etc.), or plastic. These gloves are created to protect the individual from exposure to potentially harmful substances (such as chemotherapy drugs used in healthcare) and to protect the product from contamination with various hazardous substances7.
The decision to choose between the different types of medical gloves implies taking account of how much protection is needed for each task, the glove material and properties, comfort, fit and cost. Healthcare workers need to be able to select the appropriate gloves for their tasks that can reduce associated risks for both patient and staff, offer resistance to the various hazards present, and at the same time provide the grip needed for tactile tasks. For these reasons, nitrile gloves are ideal for a variety of healthcare settings. Nitrile gloves are made of a copolymer that resembles latex but avoids the complications of latex, which can cause allergic reactions in some individuals8.
Patient exam nitrile gloves are tested for resistance to punctures and are durable and resistant to chemicals and other hazards. They are intended for jobs requiring dexterity and sensitivity, such as feeling the pulse or palpating lymph nodes. They stand up to heavy use even after prolonged exposure to substances that cause other gloves to deteriorate9 and have a form-fitting design to prevent falling off while in use.
Now more than ever, healthcare professionals need PPE they can count on. While personal protection solutions are the tools of the trade, not all are created equal. Healthcare workers rely on nitrile patient exam gloves every day to do their jobs and make sure they protect themselves and their patients. When clinicians and staff can rely on fit, comfort and availability of their PPE, they can feel more confident as they provide the highest quality care to their patients.
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1 https://www.rubbernews.com/article/20170512/NEWS/170519971/southeast-asian-market-driven-by-glove-dipping-industry; https://www.chicagotribune.com/coronavirus/ct-nw-malaysia-medical-gloves-shortage-factories-20200324-bdaz64umqzccrk2pkmcnoyhzvm-story.html