Finger cots substitute for gloves in budget minded hospitals
This was the warning issued by one of those stern nursing supervisors as she reluctantly surrendered a box of one size fits all gloves. A box of 24 latex (nobody was allergic to this substance in the good old days) gloves was supposed to suffice for three busy wards inhabited to the gills with patients vomiting, excreting, and oozing every bodily fluid known to mankind. At least these fluids were organic, the Cidex based cleaning solutions we used on hospital equipment would make unprotected skin boil and bubble up like a dousing with boiling water. We always tried to handle cleaning solution soaked rags with forceps, but sometimes the volatile fumes were enough to accelerate skin lesions. Nasty stuff indeed and don't dare get caught wearing a precious glove on an ordinary cleaning mission.
Old school nurses eschewed gloves for reasons other than the negative impact such extravagant expenditures had on hospital budgets. Nursing was a hands on affair and this meant bare hands with skin to skin contact. Gloves imposed an unnatural barrier and were viewed as an offense to the patient.
I was conditioned like Pavlov's dogs when I had gloves on. This was just not right and my shoulders hunched over with a strong sense of self consciousness. Even when using gloves appropriately, I was anticipating that cranky old nursing supervisor in the background hollering and belittling me.
Finger cots came from the supplier in boxes and were clean (hopefully) but unsterile. Sterile finger cots like Montgomery straps and scultetus binders were produced in house by cantankerous, past their prime nurses who toiled diligently in central supply. Three finger cots were oriented in the same direction and placed in a glassine finished envelope which was then autoclaved. A piece of autoclave tape sealed the envelope and verified sterility by proudly displaying diagonal black stripes.
You could do lots of fun tasks with sterile finger cots such as dressing changes or Foley catheter insertions without bankrupting the hospital on exorbitant expenditures like sterile gloves. Donning sterile finger cots took lots more practice than sterile gloving. After carefully opening the sterile packaged fingercots with your ever present bandage scissors, place them business end down on a bedside stand. Judiciously apply a very small dab of tincture of benzoin to the tips of your thumb, index, and second finger with an applicator and blow dry with a couple of puffs. Smokers (which compromised 95% of all nurses) with their comprised tidal volume might need three puffs. Press your thumb into the very center of the rolled finger cot and let the tincture of benzoin work it's adhesive magic. With the finger cot firmly stuck to your thumb slowly and carefully unroll it with your free hand while touching only the inside surface of the finger cot. Rinse and repeat for your index and second finger.
Now that you're all
Finger cots have limited surface area compared to gloves and can be predisposed to slipping off your digit at inopportune times. The no finger cot left behind doctrine incorporates several measures to prevent in vivo loss of cot custody. The tincture of benzoin trick helps ameliorate wandering finger cot issues when sterile technique is used. For the more common everyday uses of finger cots the keyword is restraint. Discretion is definitely the better part of valor when exploring any internal orifice with a finger cot. Never ever inset the finger cot into anything past it's cuff. If you poke that finger cot in deeper past the cuff all it takes is a sphincter contraction to strip it off faster than a chimp can peal a banana. It's a real challenge to gain purchase on a retained finger cot and the best course of action is probably benign neglect while hoping that it works itself out.
the index finger. Note the 3 exposed fingers
providing traction on the tenaculum. Gloves optional.