Playing a Hand in Infection Control
HealthOctober 11, 2018

Playing a hand in infection control

Nurses represent one of the largest working groups that make direct patient contact in health care. Hand hygiene is one of the most effective measures to prevent healthcare associated infections.

Infectious diseases are a particular risk to the very young, the elderly, those with pre-existing conditions, and people with compromised immune systems. Proper hand washing not only prevents nurses from getting sick, it also reduces the risk of infecting others.

Lack of compliance

Research has shown that while healthcare workers keep largely favorable attitudes towards hand washing, observed compliance rates are below 30%.

Reasons given by professionals for the lack of compliance to hand hygiene highlight several explanatory factors, including: work conditions (lack of time), infrastructures (lack of equipment), inadequate training, and skin irritations caused by frequent hand-cleaning.

Failure to perform appropriate hand hygiene is the #1 leading cause of health care associated infections and the spread of multi-resistant organisms, as well as a significant contributor to outbreaks.

Good personal hygiene plays a major part in reducing and eliminating the spread of germs and infections from person-to-person. It also helps in reducing the spread of infectious illnesses, including colds, flu, and other upper respiratory illnesses. A big part of personal hygiene is hand hygiene and incorporating safety measures in developing habits that will stave off illnesses can help to further reduce the spread of germs and infections.

Handwashing 101

When should hand hygiene be performed?  As a general rule, nurses and bedside clinicians should wash hands:

  • Immediately before and after the shift
  • Before and after contact with any patient, their body substances or items contaminated by them 
  • In between different procedures on the same patient
  • Before preparing, handling, serving or eating food or feeding a patient/resident 
  • After assisting patients with personal care (toileting or wound care)
  • Before and after performing invasive procedures
  • Before putting on and after taking off gloves
  • After performing personal hygiene functions (using the bathroom, blowing your nose)
  • Anytime hands come into contact with secretions, excretions, blood, and body fluids. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) provides official guidelines on handwashing best practices as follows:

  1. Wet hands with water.
  2. Apply enough soap to cover all hand surfaces.
  3. Rub hands palm to palm.
  4. Right palm over the other hand with interlaced fingers and vice versa.
  5. Palm to palm with fingers interlaced.
  6. Backs of fingers to opposing palms with fingers interlocked.
  7. Rotational rubbing of left thumb clasped in right palm and vice versa.
  8. Rotational rubbing, backwards and forwards with clasped fingers of right hand in left palm and vice versa.
  9. Rinse hands with water.
  10. Dry thoroughly with towel for at least 15 seconds.
  11. Use the same towel to turn off the faucet. 

It’s important to remember that the use of gloves does not replace the need for hand hygiene. Nurses should wear gloves when it can be reasonably anticipated that contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials, mucous membranes, or non-intact skin will occur. Remove gloves after caring for each patient and do not reuse gloves.

International infection prevention week 2018 (IIPW)

Celebrate International Infection Prevention Week (IIPW) 2018 next week from October 14-20!  This annual initiative of APIC (Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology) is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of infection control, while providing free downloadable resources and tools.


This year’s theme is ‘Protecting Patients Everywhere.’ Visit the IIPW 2018 website for additional information HERE.  

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