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Characteristics of wet work in nurses

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Background objectives: Nursing is known for its high prevalence of hand dermatitis, mainly caused by the intense exposure to wet work in nursing activities. We aimed to study the characteristics of wet work exposure in nursing. Method: Trained observers monitored the duration and frequency of different wet work activities in 45 randomly chosen nurses from different wards during a morning shift, using a method of continuous observation based on labour-observation techniques. Results: Wet work in intensive care units accounted for 24% of the overall morning shift duration, with a frequency of 49 incidents. This was 16% in dialysis wards, with a frequency of 30 incidents, and 9% on regular wards, with a frequency of 39 incidents. The wet work activities had short mean duration cycles. The mean duration of occlusion by gloves was 3.1 min on regular wards and 6.7 min in intensive care units. Discussion: The characteristics of wet work in nurses differed substantially, depending on the ward. According to the German regulation TRGS 531, our observations classify nursing as a wet work occupation, due to the frequency of wet work rather than its duration. The mean duration of occlusion in our observations was short, which makes an occlusion-induced irritating effect doubtful. Reduction in wet work exposure in nursing on regular wards could focus on the reduction of the frequency of hand-washing and patient-washing. We suggest increasing the use of gloves for patient washing. Although this will increase exposure to occlusion from gloves, it may reduce the frequency of exposure to water and soap by about a quarter

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