How Safe Are Our Hands

The words ‘clean’ or ‘sterile’ often come to mind when we think about Hospitals but it might be more appropriate to change those to ones like ‘pathogens’ and ‘superbugs’.

Various studies have been made over the years to try and determine the level of bacterial contamination on a frequently touched object, be it by patients, visitors or healthcare workers themselves and also the potential risk of cross-contamination these surfaces pose.

Things such as door handles, biometric attendance devices, railings, water coolers and telephones have been tested and every time bacterial contamination has been discovered to exist. From these results, we can conclude that there need to be improvements to the level of hand hygiene healthcare workers and commonly touched surfaces should be cleaned/disinfected on a more frequent basis.

What can healthcare facilities do? The initial step should be to incorporate an ongoing campaign about hand hygiene to raise awareness and remind, visitors, patients and workers of the importance of washing hands after even the simplest day to day actions like opening a door.

For the visitors and patients, this could be something as simple as putting up hand sanitizer stations inconvenient and easily viewable areas around the building, in places like the outside of the elevators, outside of doors and in waiting rooms.

Whereas when it comes to hygiene awareness amongst the staff it is a somewhat different matter. Knowledge is not the issue here as the workers will/should already have insight and awareness of the risks that infrequent handwashing brings. The solution here comes by improving compliance.

Consider the following strategies to improve the hand hygiene compliance at your facility/facilities:

  • Organise engaging and entertaining staff quizzes or contests to increase involvement:
  • Encourage communication between all levels of staff by introducing daily huddles.
  • Put up signage and another source of information in restrooms, break rooms and cafeteria
  • Improve the organizational culture and attitudes among staff
  • Incorporate electronic hand hygiene monitoring systems
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