Opinions are often divided among nurses when it comes to wearing artificial nails at work. Nurses keep looking for the holy grail of nail polish that doesn’t break or chip and therefore make it “safe” to wear. Growing trends such as dip powder nails put the question to the test, whether or not it is ok to have artificial nails as a nurse.
Nurses cannot wear dip powder nails to work due to an increased risk of contracting and spreading infection. The CDC strongly discourages healthcare workers who provide direct patient care to wear artificial nails.
The dip powder method is supposedly a process that leaves your nails in a relatively stable state. There is less chipping of the nail involved with this process, and the nail is overall stronger.
While this might sound ideal for nurses that work hands-on with patients, there are some caveats even to this method of artificial nails. This article will give you some food for thought about the flaws of dip powder nails and how they affect patient care in nursing.
Dip Powder Manicure and Its Imperfections
Whether you are familiar with the process or new to the dip powder method, here is a short version of how it works:
After prepping the nail, a fast-drying substance similar to glue is applied to the nail. The nail is then dipped into a little jar containing powder in the client’s color of choice. The powder will stick to the coat of glue that was applied to the nail. This process of using glue and dipping in powder is repeated a few times over. The nail is then polished, and a topcoat is applied to give the nail shine.
The problem with this method is that the jar of powder will be reused for other clients. The bacteria that could be left behind with dipping the nail repeatedly into the powder can be transferred to the next client using the same jar.
If the nail or skin that comes in contact with the powder is damaged or broken, it is even easier for germs to settle and cause an infection.
Some nail salons try to be conscious about the possible cross-contamination and pour the powder onto the nail directly without dipping it into the jar. This method, however, is not without any risk either.
Not all the powder touching the nail will stay. Only a small layer will stick to the nail. The rest of the powder will fall back into the jar. There is a good chance some of that powder came into contact with the nail but did not stick and fell back into the pot – the jar is now contaminated.
It would be best to use a certain amount of powder for each client and discard it after use to avoid cross-contamination. Then a new amount of powder should be used for the next client.
Unfortunately, that is a rather costly solution for most salons.
Using a dedicated amount of powder for each client might seem like the solution to avoid contamination and risking an infection, but working as a nurse and being in contact with sick patients adds another dimension to the problem that we will explore next.
Dip Powder Nails in the Healthcare Setting
Hospital policies will most likely not allow artificial nails for nurses – dip powder nails included. Most healthcare facilities follow the strict hand hygiene guidelines provided by the CDC.
According to the CDC, many studies show that pathogen growth increases with artificial nails, even after hand washing. However, the studies don’t mention dip powder nails specifically but only distinguish between natural nails and artificial nails.
It is difficult to say whether dip powder nails fall into the category of artificial nails or into one of a strong and longlasting nail polish, since there is no actual tip applied to the nail.
Many consider dip powder a form of nail polish. The CDC says that nail polish that is intact does not increase the number of germs on the hands.
But how can you guarantee that your nails stay intact at all times within a fast-paced and hands-on work environment such as nursing? – YOU CAN’T.
To keep you and your patients safe, you have to assume that any application of a foreign object or substance to the nail has the potential to hold on to harmful microorganisms that can grow and possibly transfer to others, causing infection.
That is why the CDC (page 19) strongly discourages healthcare staff from wearing artificial nails altogether.
Any nurse that provides direct patient care, especially in an ICU, a burn unit, a transplant unit, or other critical care units with high-risk patients, needs to be aware that wearing dip powder nails could increase the risk of infection for the patients in their care.
Dip powder nails are supposed to be more sturdy and last longer. The process supposedly decreases the chances of the nail chipping or braking.
The problem here is, however, the nail can still break or chip. That risk can only be eliminated by merely maintaining your nails short and natural. The older the dip powder finish becomes, the higher the chance of dip powder layers to lift from the natural nail. This space can serve as a breeding ground for bacteria to hide and grow. As a nurse, you could transfer these germs to a patient or end up with an infection yourself.
Frequent repositioning of patients and assisting them in daily activities, let alone constant hand washing can facilitate the nail layers to lift or break.
Whether you consider dip powder nails artificial, acrylic nails, or just longlasting nail polish, all of them could increase the spread of bacteria and compromise your patient’s health.
If you are interested in whether or not nurses can wear nail polish, read this article.
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