Study focuses on surgical glove safety

As a young nurse earning her doctorate in the late 1980s, Denise Korniewicz, D.N.Sc., R.N., F.A.A.N., spent weekends working in emergency rooms and intensive care units, where many of her patients had highly infectious diseases. One day, after removing her gloves, she found blood on her hands. Since then, she has devoted her career to patient and health care worker safety.

The first researcher in the country to study barrier quality and protection of vinyl and latex gloves, Korniewicz has increased the body of scientific knowledge on the subject and was instrumental in changing FDA standards on the quality control of gloves.

"When I found blood on my hands, I had to wonder if gloves really provided a safe barrier," Korniewicz says."The next step was to develop a way to test the efficacy of gloves to see if they really provide protection to health care workers."

Her latest project investigates the effectiveness of surgical gloves in protecting against sharp and needlestick injuries. Korniewicz has been awarded a four-year $1 million grant from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate the use of blunt needles, glove indicator systems, and retractable blades to determine if these safety devices decrease the incidence of injury during surgery.

Korniewicz is working with nurses and physicians in the operating rooms at University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center to collect data for her study."With health care workers, 75 percent of needlestick injuries occur in hospital settings," she says. "Individuals in the operating room report injuries much less frequently. I want to provide data to people who work in the O.R. so they will increase protection and decrease risk."

This major nursing research study is the first of its kind at UM/Jackson and involves more than 400 health care workers, including nurses, scrub technicians, and surgeons. The project is unique in encompassing both hospital and University staff and will continue until December 2005.