Color Coding Medical Gloves
11/19/2008 - Written by the Medical Exam Glove team
With so many medical gloves available today, it is no surprise there are many colors to choose from. Purple, blue, green, and black are a sample of what you can purchase. As technology improved over the years, manufacturers can now make different shades of color for medical exam gloves regardless of material type. Given that there are different options available, color coding medical gloves can be an effective tool for healthcare facilities.
Looking back several years ago, medical glove choices were limited and only a few colors were widely used. Latex and vinyl gloves were either white or cream colored while nitrile gloves were typically blue in color. Although some companies offered different colored exam gloves, color branding exam gloves didn’t catch on until Kimberly-Clark released their Purple Nitrile glove. Purple exam gloves became an instant hit with nurses and remain popular to this day. Riding on this success, other manufacturers began releasing different colored exam gloves like Medline’s green Aloe gloves. With so many options available, hospitals can purchase medical gloves based on color if they wished.
A tactic some hospitals implemented is to choose a neutral color, like white or cream, for their latex or vinyl gloves while choosing a contrasting color, like purple or blue, for their nitrile gloves. This strategy allows hospitals to easily educate their staff on which exam gloves to use depending on the situation without teaching clinicians the intricate details of latex, vinyl, and nitrile. Hospitals can tell their nurses, “Use the white gloves when doing normal tasks and handling patients on a day to day basis. Use the purple gloves when extra protection is needed or when working with chemicals like Chemo.” This simple instruction allows clinicians to easily remember which exam glove to use depending on the situation and environment they are in.
For healthcare facilities that are considering switching exam gloves, caution is recommended when choosing color. It is best to choose similar colors based on the function of each medical glove. If the current “main” glove is white, keep the new, main glove color white. If the current “extra-protection” glove is blue, keep the new, extra-protection glove color blue or similar. Unless the current glove color scheme doesn’t follow this logic, sticking with the same medical exam glove color scheme will make transitioning to new exam gloves easier for your facility.
Healthcare facilities should avoid buying same colored exam gloves regardless of whether they are latex, vinyl, or nitrile. Not having a color scheme can confuse the staff as to whether or not they are using the “correct” exam glove. Even worse, a clinician can mistakenly use the wrong glove and not be adequately protected. Consider a scenario where a hospital unit is using vinyl and nitrile gloves that are green in color. If a clinician mistakenly wears the vinyl glove while administering chemotherapy drugs, she is not protected from chemo like the nitrile glove would provide. For this reason, it is best to clearly distinguish exam glove type based on material by selecting different colors.
Hospitals should be careful of using latex or vinyl gloves that are not white or cream colored. Using any another color can confuse clinicians into thinking the glove is made from nitrile because colored gloves are more associated with nitrile gloves.
Finally, we recommend considering a lighter toned color for your exam glove. The primary reason is because it is harder to detect blood on darker gloves. For this reason, the color red is not available for medical exam gloves.
To recap on things to consider when choosing the color of exam gloves:
- Keep new colors consistent with old glove colors based on material to ease transition.
- Choose a strikingly different color for nitrile gloves so clinicians are not confused with latex or vinyl.
- Avoid using the same color for all exam gloves if different materials are used.
- Do not use black, red, or dark gloves because detecting blood will be difficult.
- Use only white or cream colored latex or vinyl gloves so workers do not confuse with nitrile.