Staying one step ahead of serious public health threats like antibiotic-resistant bacteria and other healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) often appears to be a high-tech problem. But a big part of defeating these types of threats consists of managing the human element.
This is particularly true in the case of hand hygiene. In healthcare environments, hand hygiene is one of the relatively minor tasks with potentially dire consequences when non-compliant. Bacteria and viruses can easily be transmitted from patient to patient, caregiver to patient or patient to caregiver, when such basic steps as proper hand washing or appropriate glove use are ignored. When dealing with patients, especially the elderly, infants and the immunocompromised, this can be life threatening.
Furthermore, with increased regulatory attention on preventing the spread of HAIs – with financial penalties for those providers who fail to take adequate measures – proper hand hygiene is one way to help prevent the transmission of HAIs.
The key to achieving higher hand hygiene compliance with staff may lie with nurses. A recent article in Becker’s Clinical Control & Quality1 reported that a hospital in Florida has recruited its nurses to be the frontline advocates for hand hygiene, and has done so with great success. The article indicated that the provider’s rate of compliance, based on their internal audits, was between 95 and 100 percent.
Nurses give patients surveys with which the patients can rate their caregivers’ hand hygiene compliance. The hospital has also made hand hygiene products, such as wipes, easily accessible in patient rooms, so nurses can easily point them out to patients and guests.
Perhaps most important to the hospital’s hand hygiene success is its attitude. Nurses are not quiet about compliance. Viewing it as a matter of duty, they confidently remind physicians and other hospital staff about meeting hand hygiene guidelines.
Rethinking the layout of spaces within the hospital to promote use of wipes and hand-washing stations, and even implementing technological solutions to trigger hand hygiene reminders can play a role in managing hygiene successfully. It is a hospital-wide culture shift that all staff want to comply with proper hand hygiene.
1.Shannon Barnet. Nurses -- The closest thing to a silver bullet in boosting hand hygiene compliance. Becker's Infection Control & Clinical Quality, February 10, 2016: http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/quality/nurses-the-closest-thing-to-a-silver-bullet-in-boosting-hand-hygiene-compliance.html