A Dermatologist’s 5 Steps to Help Clinicians Continue Doing the Job They Love

By Matthew Zirwas | November 27, 2017

My expertise as a dermatologist at Bexley Dermatology is in treating chronic, difficult to treat skin problems. I see so much more than skin though. There’s a lot of heart behind each case, with clinicians questioning whether they can continue working. In the field of nursing, the turnover rate is one we can’t take lightly. It’s already above 17 percent for bedside registered nurses.¹

These are hands that hurt.

The problem extends past their place of work. In the cases that have more than just simple dryness, I frequently see clinicians that can’t take care of their children the way they would like because it’s too painful on their hands. I even regularly see clinicians who have to switch jobs.

One woman who had been a scrub nurse for over 20 years just LOVED what she was doing. Her hands started to give her problems and it got to the point that she had to give up working in the OR environment. She went to an administrative job that she HATED. After she saw me for treatment, we got to the root of her problem. I’ll get to that a little later.

But I’ve seen everything from simple dryness to scaling, chapping, fissuring, cracking and even bleeding. All of these skin symptoms are taking a toll on work lives and personal lives.

Are you washing your hands correctly?

Many clinicians will tell me the severe dryness and irritation is from the frequent washing and drying they have to do every day. Here’s what some clinicians don’t realize. The scaling and redness is also due to washing and irritation from soap that has not been adequately rinsed off before gloving.

It’s part of the job.

So many clinicians come to me saying the frequent hand washing is simply part of the job. Surveys show because more than half of their colleagues have dryness and scaling, they assume they have a worst case of the same thing that everyone has. Then comes the thinking, “Since everyone has it, there must not be a way to get rid of it.”

Keep doing the job you love without the pain.

In the case of the scrub nurse, I determined her hand issues were caused by fragrance and preservatives in the soap. I asked her to switch soaps and she was able to return to the job she loved. So many more clinicians can have the same outcome.

Here are my top five tips to help clinicians’ hands heal.

  1. Wash your hands in the coldest water possible.
  2. Use hand sanitizer instead of soap as much as possible.
  3. Rinse your hands really well and wait as long after drying as possible before gloving.
  4. Use an innovative glove with moisturizing features with colloidal oatmeal that can help hydrate and soothe the skin.
  5. Your moisturizer is important! Moisturize as much as possible.

Your hands are by far the most valuable tools you have and you need to take care of them.

Get the resources you need to implement proper hand hygiene protocols that promote healthy skin for clinicians. 


1. 2016 National Healthcare Retention & RN Staffing Report. http://www.nsinursingsolutions.com/Files/assets/library/retention-institute/NationalHealthcareRNRetentionReport2016.pdf. Nursing Solutions, Inc. 2016.

Categories: Caregiver Readiness, Expert Views, Infection Prevention, Skin Health

Matthew Zirwas


Dr. Matthew Zirwas is a nationally recognized expert in eczema, psoriasis, and contact dermatitis. Before opening his own practice in 2016, Dr. Zirwas worked for Ohio State University where he ran the residency program and contact dermatitis clinic. Dr. Zirwas is a member of the North American Contact Dermatitis Group and the . Dr. Zirwas completed his undergraduate degree, medical school and dermatology residency at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Zirwas has also been published in the 2016 Fisher’s Contact Dermatitis.

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