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Gel Manicures- Nurse Friendly?

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  7. Gel Manicures- Nurse Friendly?

As the popularity of gel manicures continues to rise, nurses everywhere have started sporting long-lasting manicures at work.

Manicures used to be a certain no-go for nursing staff due to the potential risk of contaminants hanging out inside the chipped edges of an old-fashioned manicure.

We would be willing to bet your company still has a manicure policy but enforces the rules with little regularity. Areas like surgery or chemo units may hold more stringently to the need for short natural nails. Still, not all nursing units seem to notice or care if your nails are painted or longer than the recommended 1/4 of an inch. In truth, the CDC states that nurses who wear artificial nails are more likely to have gram-negative bacteria under their nails, which could be especially devastating for those in high-risk areas like surgery or the ICU. 

Still, gel polish can go directly on the natural nail, and little evidence has suggested that it increases bacterial counts. Still, that finding was directly related to the quality of the polish. As little as 25% chipping on nails contributed to a higher level of bacteria. The more chips, the more funk.

The same was true for polish as it aged. The older the polish, the more chips, and the more bacteria. The study noted that ALL nurses who worked a full 12-hour shift experienced mild chipping by the end of day one. Gel polishes may be less likely to chip as quickly, meaning you might get a few days of wear before those chips start making your hands a breeding ground for bacteria.

Artificial nails are still are hard no. Up to 86% of nurses who had fake nails STARTED their day with harmful germs around their nails, vs. 35% who had natural nails. 

If you are in love with a bright gel manicure, make sure you scrub well and get rid of that polish as soon as it starts chipping. Keep it on your natural nails, and try to keep them short. It’s a pretty safe bet that your patient will not appreciate the stiletto nail trend anyway.

As always, make sure you follow your company policy. Buy some cute scrubs sets if you can’t show off your pretty nails. Or spring for the pedicure and treat those tootsies instead!

Amanda Ernst, DNP, RN, CEN

Amanda Ernst, DNP, RN, CEN


Amanda is an ER nurse with 10 years of healthcare experience. She currently works as a nurse educator and as an adjunct professor for several schools. She also works as a freelance healthcare writer in her spare time. Amanda thinks the greatest thing about nursing is the endless possibilities and opportunities to learn. What have you learned today?


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