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Know How to Combat Common Excuses for Lapses in Hand Hygiene

April 14, 2015
hand washing.jpgThe importance of practicing proper hand hygiene is nothing to joke about. Healthcare workers around the globe know they should clean their hands before, during and after patient encounters. Yet an astonishing number still don't follow established guidelines for hand hygiene. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, healthcare worker hand hygiene compliance remains below 40 percent.


Recently, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety published a list of 24 reasons why healthcare workers skimp on their hand hygiene efforts. Some reasons you might expect, while others could be surprising. However, in just about every situation, the excuses can be easily managed by establishing proper education and ongoing communication with hospital staff. Here are the top three groups of excuses and tips for remedying the situation.


  1. Logistical / Access Issues

Common logistical excuses include: dispensers were inconveniently placed, or the dispenser/sink was broken, empty or missing. Communication between the clinical staff and environmental services at the facility in these situations needs to be managed properly so these matters can be fixed, but in the meantime, healthcare workers should be aware of the next nearest dispenser and begin using that dispenser while the issue is being fixed. Ensuring there are dispensers at the point-of-care can also help so that staff is not inconvenienced in accessing sanitizer, butrather it is easily available as part of their typical workflow.


  1. Intolerance for / Dislike of the Product

When healthcare workers complain that the product was unpleasant or caused skin irritation, education - as well as future product selection  is key. For example, understand that not all products are created equally. Ensure that the products onsite are the best available. Foaming sanitizer can be gentler than gels, and is often preferred format among users. Tips on ensuring the best skin health can be found here.


Consider also educating staff about the following:


  • The appropriate use of gloves. Gloving does not negate the need for hand hygiene
  • The moments of hand hygiene: Workers knowing the moments that hand hygiene should be performed will combat any excuse that what is being asked of them is “excessive”
  • Importance of hand hygiene in general: Workers being educated on the significance of hand hygiene and how it can increase patient safety is key in creating a safety culture within the facility.
  1. “I Forgot”

One of the oldest and most obvious excuses for low hand hygiene compliance is the age-old, “I forgot”. To err is human, but when it comes to the critical patient safety that relies on proper hand hygiene, make sure your staff never has a chance to employ this excuse. Here are just some ways to help remind healthcare workers about the importance of hand hygiene:


  • Placing hand hygiene posters around the hospital
  • Talking about hand hygiene in team meetings
  • Handing out reminder cards
  • Placing screensavers on all computers with reminders
  • Encouraging team collaboration to help workers remind each other
  • Appointing a Hand Hygiene Champion on each unit to talk about the current compliance data


With these tips in mind, healthcare officials can quickly and easily promote higher rates of hand hygiene compliance in their facilities through some simple strategies such as education on the importance of cleaning hands effectively, ensuring dispensers are easily available and functioning, and encouraging staff to share the responsibility for practicing proper hand hygiene.

Hand hygiene is a key factor in increasing patient safety within facilities. Know the facts, and you won’t be fooled by these common excuses.


To read the original article please visit the DebMed Blog.


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