Lending a hand to infection control

May 5 is World Hand Hygiene Day, a great time to remind all employees and residents of the importance of maintaining proper hand hygiene protocols.

Placing cleansing products at key locations—at entrances to resident areas, near nurses’ stations, near food areas, in resident common rooms and other high-touch spots—can prompt staff, residents and visitors to keep hands clean.

Educating staff on the proper protocols and the danger of shortcuts is key to compliance with the infections control program mandates from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Misunderstandings about glove use, altered routines due to time constraints and differing perceptions of risk all contribute to  noncompliance, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Infection Control. To learn more about the habits and adherences of staff, the researchers examined 250 videotapes of healthcare professionals in their daily work and then shared the adherence successes and problems. Many workers placed too much confidence in gloves, and almost half of the workers had at least one breach in hand hygiene protocols.

Nurses aren’t the only ones involved in infection control processes. Hand hygiene needs to start at the front door, especially with residents who are transferring in from hospitals. A 2016 study published in JAMA showed almost one-quarter of incoming residents have at least one multidrug-resistant organism (MDRO) on their hands when they arrive. “Owing to post-acute care patients’ increased mobility and interaction with the environment, healthcare workers and other patients, we believe that it is even more important to implement routines that enforce washing of patients’ hands than in the acute care setting,” the authors wrote.

Remind nursing and housekeeping staff that certain situations require soap-and-water hand washing instead of alcohol-based sanitizers. While alcohol-based sanitizers are fine for many instances, cases where food, easily communicable diseases or resistant microbes may be in play are a soap-and-scrub situation, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • In cases of Clostridium difficile
  • In cases of norovirus
  • Before handling food
  • When hands are visibly dirty

Freshening your signage and educational leaflets can catch people’s attention more effectively and keep hand hygiene at the top of mind. SCA Tork offers an online site where providers can design customized posters for free. The CDC also offers handwashing-related resources for healthcare professionals, residents and visitors on its website as part of the agency’s Clean Hands Count initiative.

Related article:
FDA nixes 19 antibacterial handwash ingredients

Topics: Articles , Infection control , Regulatory Compliance