Making a habit of hand hygiene

Among the most effective ways to prevent hospital-acquired infections is also the simplest – proper hand hygiene.handhygiene

Hallmark Health System is reinvigorating its hand hygiene awareness efforts with a number of activities, including a kick-off hand hygiene relay held in August. “The idea is lighthearted but the purpose is serious,” said Karen Costigan, BSN, RN, NE-BC, patient care director on Medical 5 at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital. “The goal of the relay was to remind staff about proper technique for using antiseptic foam to clean hands.” This involves rubbing the sanitizer into the palms, on the backs of the hands, between the fingers, and on fingernails, finger tips, thumbs and wrists. The process should take 15-30 seconds.

On the medical-surgical floors at Hallmark Health, there are sanitizer dispensers both inside and outside every patient room, plus sinks in ever y room in case the more traditional soap-and-water technique is required – for example, if patients have certain infections or if hands are visibly dirty. Proper hand-washing technique involves wetting the hands, applying soap, scrubbing all surfaces of the hands and wrists for at least 20 seconds, rinsing with warm water and turning off the faucet using a towel.

Other components of the hand hygiene campaign include signs and posters, reminders in staff huddles, patient education materials, and encouraging staff to speak up to remind others to clean their hands.

Aubrie Clements, BSN, RN, who participated in the early-morning hand hygiene relay, said it was “a fun way to remind us of making hand hygiene a habit, with several opportunities ever y time we have contact with a patient.”

National guidelines suggest five key moments for optimal hand hygiene – before touching a patient, before performing a clean or aseptic procedure, after exposure to bodily fluids, after touching a patient and after touching a patient’s surroundings.



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