Nails in Nursing
“Why are acrylic nails a no-go in nursing?”
As a nurse, hand hygiene is very important, for patient health and also the nurse’s own personal health. Patient safety is at the top of the list of a nurse’s priorities. Taking into consideration the risk of spreading germs, nurses in direct care positions are advised to not wear acrylic nails as they may aid in the collection of germs and bacteria, which may create a potential for germs and bacteria to spread from person to person.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care (2009), Artificial fingernails are an important risk factor, as they are associated with changes of the normal flora and impede proper hand hygiene (p. 55). “Having longer fingernails and wearing rings were associated with increased numbers and species of organisms on hands” (WHO, 2009, p. 132) “Numerous studies have documented that subungual areas of the hand harbour high concentrations of bacteria, most frequently coagulase-negative staphylococci, Gram-negative rods (including Pseudomonas spp.), Corynebacteria, and yeasts. Freshly applied nail polish does not increase the number of bacteria recovered from periungual skin, but chipped nail polish may support the growth of larger numbers of organisms on fingernails. (WHO, 2009, p. 133)”.
In addition to promoting hand hygiene, a potential reason a healthcare facility may ban acrylics as well as long natural nails is that it can interfere with everyday work. Nails that are too long may make it difficult to manipulate certain tools or equipment. Check with your nursing school and employer to see what policy they have for nails.
World Health Organization. (2009). Who Guidelines On Hand Hygiene In Health Care. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/infection-prevention/publications/hand-hygiene-2009/en/