Use Finger Paint to Teach Your Staff Better Hand Hygiene



Hand hygiene is essential to preventing infection, both among your patients and your staff. Yet many healthcare professionals wash their hands half as often as they should, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And when they do, they aren’t as thorough as they could be.

Angela Vassallo, MPH, MS, CIC, of the CDC suggests an exercise she learned from her first infection prevention boss that practice leaders can conduct with their staff in as little as 10 or 15 minutes. And all it requires is a little washable finger paint from a toy or art supply store.

First, personnel put on gloves. Next, they place a dollop of the paint on their hands. Then, they close their eyes and begin to wash their hands as they normally would. After at least 20 seconds, the personnel should stop. Finally, they open their eyes and see all the places on their gloves where there is no paint.

“This fun exercise really opens peoples’ eyes to how they can make improvements in their own hand hygiene practice,” said Vassallo. “You will find that people enjoy being able to see their mistakes with their own eyes on their own hands.”

The CDC’s Clean Hands Count program provides educational materials for professionals and patients alike reinforcing the importance of proper hand hygiene. The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology also offers informational materials.

One recent study suggested the World Health Organization’s 6-step hand hygiene process is superior in eliminating bacteria to the CDC’s 3-step process. But Vassallo says technique, consistency and adherence are more important than the number of steps—and that means practice.

“Making the instructions practical versus theoretical often makes it easier for people to absorb and retain,” said Vassallo about the exercise with the paint. “Plus, people have fun doing it!”

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