Hand Hygiene Is Key to Infection Control

Proper Hand Hygiene Reduces Health Care-Associated Infections

Global Handwashing Day is celebrated on October 15 and is dedicated to increasing both awareness and understanding of the importance of handwashing. The theme “Clean Hands for All” follows the push to leave no one behind, promoting soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives. This works directly with the health-related Sustainable Development Goals set forth in the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Action Plan and reminds us that we must be inclusive when addressing hand washing disparities.

Handwashing at critical times can stop the spread of disease-causing germs, as hands are the leading carriers of germs that cause diarrhea and respiratory infections like pneumonia. Having direct contact with sick patients can put healthcare workers at risk to be a susceptible host to the chain of infection.

Health care-associated infection (HCAI) is a major cause of death and disability worldwide. According to the WHO, the risk of acquiring HCAI is universal and occurs at every healthcare facility and system around the world. Overall estimates indicate that more than 1.4 million patients worldwide in developed and developing countries are affected at any time.

As we mentioned last week, proper hand hygiene protocols is an area we are addressing at MBF partner Hôpital Sainte Croix (HSC) Women & Children’s Center in Léogâne. In many low-income countries such as Haiti, practicing good hand hygiene is not easy due to lack of access to running water. A WHO report states that one in three health facilities in low- and middle-income countries do not have any access to water at all. For these challenged countries, the WHO has identified formulations for local preparation of alcohol-based hand rubs.

It should be noted that even with access to water and soap, many healthcare workers simply forget to wash their hands, despite regular demonstrations and monitoring. According to the WHO, as much as 70% of healthcare workers do not adhere to recommended hand hygiene practices. In the U.S., the CDC estimates health providers clean their hands less than half of the time they should.

Change begins by having educational discussions with staff to start dialogues around the importance of hand hygiene. This ensures staff know why, how, and when to perform hand hygiene. We all need to consider the moments that might be critical in our own hand hygiene. Remember to practice regular and proper hand hygiene and share the knowledge with your patients and co-workers.

We welcome your feedback and would love to hear from you. How have you implemented hand hygiene protocols in your facility? Share your success stories by emailing us at  [email protected]

Yours in Nursing,

Lisa D. Cole, MA, RN
MBF Center for Global Nursing Development