Medical Eye Protection in Today’s Nursing Environment

Dec 7, 2021 4:00:00 PM

Medical Eye Protection for Nurses: Cause for Concern

Policies and protocols regarding the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line medical professionals continue to evolve in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. And while surgical masks, respirators, and gloves have been points of emphasis, another important form of PPE, protective eyewear, should not be overlooked.

According to the most recently published EPINet® report for blood and body fluid exposures,1 fewer than 12% of healthcare workers who reported such an exposure during 2020 were wearing any kind of protective eyewear and, perhaps unsurprisingly, more than 71% of the reported exposures were to the eyes. The same EPINet report also indicates that more than one-third of blood and body fluid exposures took place in the patient room or on the ward.

How To Mitigate Risk

Infectious agents can be introduced through the mucous membranes of the eye in several ways, including blood splashes, respiratory droplets generated during coughing, and touching the eyes with contaminated fingers. For many years now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended the use of eye protection in a variety of potential exposure settings where workers may be at risk of acquiring infectious diseases via ocular exposure.2

Today, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) specifically recommends that healthcare workers with exposure to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients wear eye protection.3 This recommendation aligns well with a recent study reported in The Lancet that found the use of eye protection to be associated with less SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV infection.4

Prescription vs. Protection

When talking about safeguarding the eyes, it is worth noting that prescription eyeglasses are not protective eyewear. While prescription eyeglasses may block a direct splash, they leave the wearer’s eyes vulnerable to indirect splashes as well as droplets and aerosols. Protective items like face shields and eye shields, on the other hand, are designed purposefully for contamination prevention.

The benefits5 of using a face shield, as given in a recent viewpoint article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), include:

  • Protecting the portals of viral entry
  • Reducing the potential for autoinoculation
  • Being comfortable to wear
  • Being easy to clean

Protective Eyewear Solutions

While there has been a dramatic increase in glove use over the past few decades as part of the effort to limit the transmission of HIV and other bloodborne pathogens from patients to healthcare workers,6 it remains to be seen whether COVID-19 will create a sea change in the use of protective eyewear.

To meet evolving needs, TIDI Products offers a broad range of protective eyewear solutions for nurses, including pre-assembled medical eye shields in a gravity-fed dispenser that can be conveniently placed at the point-of-care, as well as wrap-around, anti-fog medical face shields. TIDI also offers nurses continuing education opportunities relating to protective eyewear and other topics of interest.


1 EPINet Report for Blood and Body Fluid Exposures, Official 2020 US Summary v2. International Safety Center, 2021. Accessed online: December 2021.
2 Eye Safety; Infection Control. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Page last reviewed: July 29, 2013. Archived document. Accessed online: December 2021.
3 Healthcare Workers and Employers; Personal Protective Equipment. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Accessed online: December 2021.
4 D.K. Chu et al. Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet. Open access published: June 1, 2020. Accessed online: December 2021.
5 E.N. Perencevich, D.J. Diekema, and M.B. Edmond. Moving personal protective equipment into the community: face shields and containment of COVID-19. Journal of the American Medical Association. Published: April 29, 2020. Accessed online: December 2021.
6 WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care: First Global Patient Safety Challenge Clean Care Is Safer Care. World Health Organization, 2009. Accessed online: December 2021.


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