Gross Out Your Staff for Better Hand Hygiene Compliance



If you want your staff to practice better hand hygiene, you may have to gross them out. Infection control specialists showed magnified images of bacteria found on common items in the healthcare environment around Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit to personnel there, and hygiene compliance rates improved by nearly 24%.

“These images put a face to the continuous hand hygiene education that healthcare workers get,” said Ashley Gregory, one of the specialists and a coauthor of the study. “They stick in your mind.”

Healthcare workers practice proper hand hygiene less than half the time they should, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which adds that personnel might need to clean their hands as many as 100 times per 12-hour shift depending on the number of patients and acuity of care.

Henry Ford integrates hand hygiene into its routine practices and uses ongoing education to remind its staff about the importance of cleaning their hands before and after patient interactions. The hospital reports a 70% hand hygiene compliance rate.

Gregory and Eman Chami—another infection control specialist—visited 4 units in the hospital with low compliance rates 10 times each between July and September 2015. During these visits, they swabbed various items including doorknobs, keyboards, and employees’ hands for bacteria using a triphosphate meter.

Also, Gregory and Chami showed workers magnified images of bacteria to demonstrate what these items would look like under a microscope. Then they tested hygiene compliance rates at the midpoint of their study and once all visits were completed. These rates increased by 22.9%, 36%, 142%, and 37.6%, respectively on each of the units.

“I think healthcare workers in general become numb to the fact that hospitals are an environment of germs,” Gregory said. “We believe our study demonstrates that pictures go a long way to breaking that detachment and gives hospitals a new tool for their hand hygiene toolkit.”

The study will be presented at the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology’s annual conference in Charlotte, NC, June 11 to June 13.

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